A Solar-backed Currency for the Refugees of Western Sahara.
What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun.
The HSBC ads at Newark International Airport could not have been more appropriate for my trek to the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. As I ambled through the jet bridge with my carry-on, color-coordinated images of demure North African women met my eyes, accompanied by some facts assembled by the bank—”0.3% of Saharan solar energy could power Europe”—and a self-aggrandizing but, for me, prescient message: “Do you see a world of potential? We do.”
It was the fall of 2011, and I was on a string of flights from North Carolina to Algeria to participate in an ARTifariti convening of international artists presenting human rights–related projects at the Algerian camps and in Western Sahara. During previous gatherings, a New York–based art critic had presented a slide show to international artists and Sahrawi refugees, sharing pieces by activist artists and filmmakers such as Ai Weiwei and Spike Lee. The get-togethers offered a forum to consider artists who might do a project in the camps.
And in the end, the refugees had chosen a Chinese Texan who had spearheaded Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project, an artwork that prompted Americans to draw their own versions of $100 bills (in order to raise awareness of and prevent childhood lead poisoning). Essentially they said, “Bring us the guy with the money.” So I packed my bags and left for the western lands of North Africa.
At an unknown hour on a starless night, I arrived in the 27 February Camp—one of Algeria’s five Sahrawi refugee camps (named after the date in 1976 on which the Polisario Front declared the birth of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic)—and was led to the home of our host, Abderrahman. As we entered his compound, the seasoned warrior, dressed in a blue darrâa, emerged from a UN tent, unfurled a carpet over the sand, ignited charcoal and began to prepare the customary tea for us. We attempted to translate from Hassaniya Arabic to Spanish to English over tea, getting a taste of enthusiastic nomad hospitality.
That night I heard firsthand the history of the Sahrawi people, who today are divided between Algerian refugee camps and a sliver of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara that they call the “liberated territories.” For nearly four decades, warfare and political powers have trapped more than 150,000 Sahrawis in the camps and separated them from their family members in the liberated territories, which are bounded by the Moroccan wall to the west and Algeria’s border to the east.
When Morocco and Mauritania invaded Western Sahara in 1975 (Mauritania withdrew in 1979), they split up the land and seized the Sahrawis’ natural resources—water, rich fishing grounds and the world’s largest phosphate mine. Now, inhabiting either the arid, landlocked region of Western Sahara or the bare-bones camps of Algeria, the Sahrawi people depend entirely on international humanitarian aid for food, water and medicine. And while Western Sahara has none of the lead-poisoning problems of postindustrial America, its liberated territories have more landmines than any other place on the planet.
In the morning I awoke from this harrowing chronicle in a land of sand and rock that was brutally burnished by the sun—and I can guarantee that there was no bank in sight. I soon learned why the Sahrawi people were so interested in the Fundred Dollar Bill project: they have no currency of their own and deal mostly with Algerian dinars. In response, we created a background template for their currency, printed thousands of blank bills and distributed them through the camps, announcing a design opportunity. After we curated their drawings, the Sahrawis would vote on the designs for what might become their first currency.
The denominations for the currency, called “sollars,” were 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Children and teens drew the 5s and 10s; young adults, the 20s; and of course, the elders, the 100s. But the designs for the 50s would have two adult versions, one male and one female. The survivalist family culture that has emerged from the hostile desert climate has enforced a long-standing code of equality between the sexes. In a region where food is scarce and hot summer temperatures and freezing desert nights can kill, whoever survives the elements must be allowed equal rights in the tribe to barter and represent the family, regardless of religious dictates.
While I was in the camps, I came to understand that the symbolic and therapeutic benefits of designing the first Sahrawi currency with the refugees were not worthy enough goals. The Sahrawi people need a real economy. And to make that happen, the fictional currency I helped the refugees design had to be backed by something real and exchangeable on international markets.
As I mulled over the problem under the blazing sun, I realized that the desert holds the potential to bring Sahrawis economic and political independence—and the leverage necessary to help us all combat climate change.
What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun. The first solar energy–backed currency in the world could bring the Sahrawi people an independent economy and offer a major breakthrough in an environmental quagmire. We would create a new model of banking and currency, free from the dominance of gold and oil, for first-world countries to follow.
And this model would be delivered by the Sahrawi people, who have been waiting for freedom and self-determination for 39 years! By achieving worldwide renown for freeing people from hydrocarbon dependency, the Sahrawi could then barter with the global community for another form of independence: their right to self-determination.
I admit that it was a pretty far-out and grand idea, but I suppose I did see a world of potential in Saharan solar energy, just like the jetway HSBC ad said. I was thinking like a bank.
After getting back from the Tindouf camps, I found myself in Texas, accepting a national award for my efforts in public art and, most likely, boring everyone with crazy talk about a Bank of the Sun in landmine-laced Western Sahara. My friends were more concerned about my diminishing sense of self-preservation than about anything I said—especially after I told them that my trip to Tifariti had been interrupted by the armed kidnapping of three foreign-aid workers from a neighboring refugee camp. They didn’t even entertain my ideas with any questions about how the bank idea could be pulled off.
As with most such gatherings, there was not much left to do after the award ceremony but drink and dance. So, with friends in tow, we honky-tonked through San Antonio, taking over a bar by the River Walk and proceeding to do what had to be done. While taking a break from the floor, I noticed a man about my age sitting at a table with a beer, tapping his feet to the bluesy beat. I had my posse pull him onto the floor. He began to move in a calculated way, like an engineer. Intrigued, I joined him and the party on the floor.
Over the din, I shouted, “What do you do?”
He shouted back, “I’m an engineer.”
“Really?” I asked. “What kind?”
“A solar engineer.”
I challenged Texas style: “So, ever heard of Western Sahara?”
Matter-of-factly he replied, “Yes, we designed a power station for the refugee camps there.”
For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds; the bodies in frantic motion seemed to stand still. I urged him off the dance floor. He told me, in an Australian accent, that he was Dr. Richard Corkish, head of photovoltaic engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Not only that—his colleague had just been in the same refugee camps I had visited, advising on how to power a women’s clinic. It was a profound coincidence, to say the least. We closed the bar, and I left clutching Dr. Corkish’s business card.
For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds.
Since our night on the floor, Dr. Corkish has been an adviser to the Bank of the Sun, which is on its way to becoming a reality. He has assigned students the project as part of his curriculum and counseled us on the design of a modular, pragmatic stand-alone solar power plant in Western Sahara, as well as a cost-effective method for transmitting power. Following Corkish’s methodologies, we could generate more than enough energy for Sahrawi needs, creating a surplus to sell to neighboring countries or even to Europe. By working in the Western Sahara to retool our approach to energy, we would prove that the most advanced methods of solar-power storage and delivery are feasible even in a place with no infrastructure. The most appropriate technology for us all could be built from the sand up.
In February 2013 I discussed the project with Ahmad Bukhari, the Polisario representative to the United Nations, and later with Mohamed Yeslem Beisat, the ambassador to the United States for the Western Saharan people. Skeptical at first, they have both become advisers and creative collaborators.
To make the first Bank of the Sun a reality, we have to find a place where electricity can be generated that is both safe from armed conflict and close enough to someone interested in buying energy. Bukhari suggested placing the stand-alone solar power plant not in the camps but in Mijek, a nomadic outpost in the liberated territories. Mijek continues to be the most likely site because the energy could be sold to Zouérat, a town in northern Mauritania where an iron ore mine needs more power than is available. The Mauritanian ambassador recently confirmed that the country would buy any energy offered. I have started to seek funds for a fact-finding trek, during which I will finally step on the sands of Western Sahara.
During my time in the Sahrawi refugee camps, I relearned a lesson I picked up in the flood-wracked and environmentally poisoned parts of New Orleans: you are not inspired by tragedy or human suffering—you are compelled.
My brilliant translator, a young man named Mohamed Sulaiman Labat, was born in the camps and has never traveled beyond his host country, Algeria, or the shameful wall of sand and explosives erected by Morocco in Western Sahara. Sulaiman is majestic in his capacity for optimism and his aptitude for imagining alternative futures based on ideas we discussed during my stay. On our last night together, he spoke with me about staring each night into the vast sky above the camps. He then asked, “No disrespect, but why is it so easy for an artist to see our need for justice when the rest of the world can’t?”
A question like that makes you think about what could be and about how our humanity is challenged if we don’t take action to amplify his question—and to force an answer.
This piece from Creative Time Reports is republished without trying to track down permission. Climate Reports is made possible by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. This series is produced in conjunction with the 2013 Marfa Dialogues/NY organized by Ballroom Marfa, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and the Public Concern Foundation. We hope that the authors will not mind our trying to publicize their very sound dream for a mos reasonable future. The only question is if the world will be enlightened enough to see that the true realists are the dreamers of today.
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The Arab Spring: The role of quality education and the consequences of its lack.
By Anne Goujon
Vienna, 18. February 2014
Abstract & Policy Recommendations:
1. EU Member States should increase bilateral cooperation for teacher training with
Arab Spring Countries.
2. Focus on transparency and accountability in teachers training.
3. Promote the role of the EU as an umbrella and catalyst for all aid-driven education
system reforms activities.
The lack of quality education plays a major role
in explaining the Arab Spring: As a result of past
shortfalls in education, large shares of the working-
age population in the Arab-Spring countries do not
have the right qualifi cations for entering the labour
market. This not only leads to high levels of unem-
ployment but also entails poverty and social dist-
ress. At the macro level, it triggers a vicious cycle
of underdevelopment by hampering an upgrade to
economies driven by knowledge and innovation de-
spite the substantial numbers of higher educated ci-
tizens of working age in these countries. This holds
particularly true for Egypt. Remedying the current
lack of quality education should be a top priority
in the countries of North Africa, because it is the
source of many deficiencies plaguing this region. In
the Arab-Spring countries, the European Union’s
sectoral aid given for education has focused on
quantity (e.g. raising enrollment by supporting the
implementation of the Millennium Development
Goals for Education) rather than on quality, where
interventions usually target higher education (most-
ly through individual sponsorship programmes),
although there are challenges at all levels, starting
with basic education. The European Union’s main
priority should be to guide and assist these coun-
tries in developing training programmes for teachers
as the driving force behind the entire system reform.
Adams, A. and R. Winthrop
. 2011. The role of education in the Arab world. Brookings
Global Compact on Learning Report number 2.
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Region. IIASA Interim Report IR-97-046. Laxenburg, Austria: IIASA.
. 2002. Population and education prospects in the Arab Region. In: I. Siragel-
din (ed.), Human capital: Population Economics in the Middle East. Cairo: The American
University in Cairo Press, An Economic Research Forum Edition: 116-140.
Goujon, A. and B. Barakat
. 2010. Future demographic challenges in the Arab world. The
Emirates Occasional Papers No. 75. Dubai: Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and
Goujon, A. and H. Alkitkat
. 2010. Population et capital humain en Egypte à l’horizon
2050 [Population and human capital in Egypt up to 2050]. In: P. Blanc (ed.), Egyp-
te: l’Eclipse, Confl uences Méditerranée, numéro 75, Automne 2010: 33–48. Paris:
L’ H a r m a t t a n .
Goujon, A., S. K.C. 2010
. Gender gap handicap in North Africa. Options (IIASA, Laxen-
burg, Austria), Summer 2010, p.22.
Makhlouf Obermeyer, C.
1992. Islam, Women, and Politics: The Demography of Arab
Countries. Population and Development Review 18 (1): 33-60.
MRBF and UNDP
. 2012. Arab Knowledge Report 2010/2011: Preparing Future Genera-
tions for the Knowledge Society. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Mohammed Bin Rashid
Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) and the United Nations Development Programme /
Regional Bureau for Arab States (UNDP/RBAS).
. 2013. Transparency International’s ›Global Corruption Baro-
Yousif, H. M., A. Goujon and W. Lutz
. 1996. Future Population and Education Trends in
the Countries of North Africa. Research Report RR-96-11. Laxenburg, Austria: IIASA.
Posted: 15 Feb 2014 09:23 PM PST
El Gouna, a resort city on Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera, is set to become the first carbon-neutral city in that nation, in Africa, and likely the entire Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. Masdar City, in continuing development in Abu Dhabi, initially targeted zero-carbon status, but has yet to hit that goal.
The ambitious development agreement was signed last week by the Egyptian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, the Italian Ministry of Environment and El Gouna City.
Dr. Laila Iskandar, Egyptian Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, told Trade Arabia, “This agreement will help the Egyptian government to achieve a significant breakthrough in the fields of environment and tourism, enhancing Egypt’s global image and opening the door for Egyptian tourism projects and cities to rank among the leading carbon-neutral entities.”
El Gouna is already hailed as Egypt’s most environmentally-friendly vacation destination. It’s captured Green Globe and Travelife certifications and was selected as the pilot location for the Green Star Hotel Initiative (GSHI).
Launched in 2007, GSHI is a cooperative effort between public and private sectors, the Egyptian and German tourism industries, and supported by key technical consultants. They promote use of environmental management systems and environmentally sound operations to improve environmental performance and to increase competitiveness of the Egyptian hotel industry.
Priority projects include conservation of natural resources such as clean beaches, healthy marine life and protected areas, which are the backbone of the Red Sea Riviera and the nation’s eco-tourism market.
Mr. Hisham Zaazou, Egyptian Minister of Tourism, told Trade Arabia, “We will also be working on implementing this project in other Egyptian cities.”
At least one human said – “I really feel ashamed to be Arabic” – when watching the 400,000 fireworks extravaganza of Dubai’s Guinness-Record Shattering New Year Environmentally Disatrous and Financially Obnoxious Event by people that complain about Gaza.
Posted: 03 Jan 2014 01:44 PM PST
Dubai rang in 2014 with a record-shattering fireworks display. In an effort to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest fireworks extravaganza previously held by Kuwait, the emirate exploded a whopping 400,000 fireworks in less than 10 minutes.
Choreographed by America’s Phil Grucci, Dubai’s fireworks display was spread across 100 kilometers and lasted six full minutes.
The event took 10 months to plan and more than 200 pyrotechnicians arranged around The Palm and The World artificial islands ensured the display went off without a hitch.
Fireworks used were purchased in China, Spain and the United States, according to The National, and were hauled to the launching site by a long series of trucks.
We’re being given the challenge of breaking the world record,” said Grucci, who has worked in Dubai in the past, “so the scale of this is nothing that anybody has had the opportunity to oversee.”
Kuwait’s previous record was shattered by Dubai’s over-the-top performance, where nearly 100,000 fireworks were set off every minute.
“[Kuwait's] firework display stretched over 5 km (3.11 miles) of seafront, started at 8 p.m. and lasted 64 minutes,” according to the Guinness World Record website. “Event organizers Parente Fireworks srl and Filmmaster MEA produced the event, which included the pyrotechnic display and a lights and sound show. Preceding this, an airshow was staged in the afternoon.”
Albeit impressive, the show somehow undoes all of the small steps that Dubai has taken over the last year to become a little less environmentally destructive.
While those that saw the show were extremely impressed and lauded Dubai’s efforts to draw tourists to the city, some commentators expressed regret over the extraordinary expense and extravagance.
“When I see this and remember that Gaza has been without electricity for 40 days,” said Oussama Bargougui on YouTube “I really feel ashamed to be Arabic.”
Screengrab from Dubai Media video
Above reminded me of the Arab UN official supervisor who at 60 years age bragged of just having had a baby.
The Sahel is in terrible condition and we doubt that bank action plans of several billion dollars will do anything beyond enriching a few leaders. We just saw the UN Secretary-General’s reporting to the UN Security Council.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Security Council briefing on peace and security in Africa.
The session dealt with Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Tchad – the countries visited by Mr. Ban Ki-moon. He did not go to Mauritania or Senegal.
The Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon said:
I came back from the visit with a clear sense that we need to do much more to fight poverty, empower women, provide employment opportunities for young people and ensure that all the people of the Sahel have what they need to build a better future.
The Sahel’s vast size and long, porous borders mean that such challenges can be addressed successfully only if the countries of the region work together. The United Nations will continue its efforts to promote security, good governance and resilience.
We took an important first step in Mali at the regional meeting. African ministers, as well as regional and international organizations and financial institutions, came together to improve coordination and address the Sahel’s fragility. They welcomed the African Development Bank’s establishment of an Action Fund, which will help jump-start underfunded projects and contribute to longer-term development.
During the visit, the World Bank, and the EU, pledged $8.2 Billion for the SAHEL.
The Secretary-General also had a very moving visit to Timbuktu, he said. People there are struggling to recover from human rights abuses and upheaval. I was given an opportunity to view the cultural treasures that had been damaged in attacks. This was a terrible loss for Mali — and for our common global heritage — but with UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) help, we are moving to safeguard it.
We must continue to strengthen MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali). Mali has made progress toward re-establishing constitutional order. The first round of legislative elections was conducted in an orderly manner. But the political process between the Government and armed groups has been delayed. I remain concerned about the security situation in the north.
Further – “Across the region, terrorist acts, the trafficking of arms, drugs and people, as well as other transnational forms of organized crime, are threatening security. We must do more to address the food crises that plague the Sahel. We also have to improve conditions in migrants’ communities of origin while also generating more legal opportunities for migrants to work abroad” – he said.
To put all this into context – we say the situation in this French-speaking belt of Sub-Saharan Africa – is totally unacceptable.
We wait to hear of any projects that help the people there rather then the banks that manage those projects.
Nevertheless – the UNSG continued – “I look forward to the views of Council members on how we can achieve this. And I count on all partners to live up to our promises so that this important region can break the cycle of poverty and insecurity and usher in an era of prosperity and stability for all.” This prompted statements from some delegations.
Now seeing what the Council said we would not express hopes that the Council intends to do anything about the Sahel.
it is indeed very cheap to say: “The Security Council reaffirms its continued commitment to address the complex security and political challenges in that region, which were interrelated with humanitarian and developmental issues, as well as the adverse effects of climate and ecological changes.” We ask – indeed gentlemen – what does this mean to you and what do you intend to do?
All right – there is a reference to a document – S/PRST/2013/20 and then what? So, yes, there is a call to the local governments – but who indeed expects them to act? What are we entitled to expect from this UN?
Sudan – March 13, 2012 – at the Council on Foreign Relations: George Clooney, great actor in movies and important activist in real life, takes on the cause of the Nuba people on whom lighter colored Sudan Arabs apply Criminal Ethnic Cleansing to get them out of the way of oil. AN UPDATE.
The UPDATE comes in the form of a letter from an organization that helps people who seek asylum in the US and we thought to attach it here:
Mr. George Clooney, accompanied by John Prendergast of the Satellite Sentinel Project, Audu Adam Elnail, Anglican Bishop at Kadugli, Southern Kordofam, Sudan, and Omer Ismail an activist from Darfur, Sudan formed at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, a panel chaired by Ann Curry of NBC News.
The four arrived directly from Sudan where they looked at the ways Sudan is scaring the Nuba of South Kordofam into leaving their villages and hiding in caves. They used to farm the arid land where they live, but now there is no agriculture and no food, and they just live in those Nuba mountain caves.
This happens like it did earlier in Darfur – the Arab Sudanese want to clear the land from the somewhat darker African Nuba people.
We were told this was not a problem of religion – both sides are mainly Muslim and there are some Christians present as well. The problem is rather one of heritage intermixed with a longer war of Non-Arab regions against the Central Government. The rebels believe they are Sudanese but want some autonomy for their area. The Government reacts by trying to undercut from the regions any hope, cause starvation in an effort to get them to leave. Left to themselves – this just becomes another Darfur. The four speak about South Kordofam;s Kadugli.
The troops come in daylight, ask the Arabs among the population to operate noisy radios in order to signal that they are Arab Somalis, while the quieter homes are being destroyed. John Prendergast has satellite photos to show the bombings and the prople heading for the caves.
The bishop says that the dark Nuba are the Biblical people of Kush. South Sudan does not support the Nuba, people from among the Nuba that fled to South Sudan come back to fight, but the villagers do not fight – they are just plain victims according to the four witnesses.
The Bishop does not find religion as a cause to the trouble – it is heritage – cultural and oil. South Sudan has decided to stop sending oil to the pipeline to refining in the North. The Chinese have invested $20 Billion in producing this oil and when they are forced to buy oil somewhere else this increases the cost of oil to everybody. This impacts the economy, including here in the US, and has political repercussions. Cloony thus says that what is needed is peace in Sudan and this can be achieved only after the present government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been removed. In the present mess, the Government of Sudan has bombed some Chinese oil wells which turned also China away from Sudan. Nevertheless, Arab governments and Africans still let Criminally indicted al-Bashir come for visits and business as if his deeds do not count. The four cry foul and want to make sure that the world knows – they put the fame of George Clooney and John Prendergast on this public relations line. They will testify in Congress and visit with President Obama. Will the people listen and understand that what is here that confronts them are not just the activities in Sudan, but the US economy and the price of gasoline at the pump. Is that what it takes to save poor people from Arab manipulations?
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES: IN SUDAN’S NUBA MOUNTAINS, GOVERNMENT ROCKET ATTACKS SOW FEAR, WITNESSES SAY.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Ryan Boyette, an American aid worker living in one of the most active war zones in Africa — Sudan’s Nuba Mountains — was in a thatch-roof office on a clear January day when he heard two thunderous blasts.
The explosions were not preceded by the usual growl of aging Antonov aircraft. The Sudanese military has been relentlessly bombing the Nuba Mountains since June, killing hundreds of civilians, trying to quash a dug-in rebel movement. At the faintest sound of approaching aircraft, many Nuban people scramble up the steep, stony mountainsides to take cover in caves. But that day, silence preceded the two loud bangs that jolted Mr. Boyette, giving no time to run.
When Mr. Boyette, 30, dashed out to the blast site, he found his wife, Jazira, stunned, and many children crying.
“Rockets,” the locals told him. “That was the rockets.”
The Sudanese Army, according to aid workers such as Mr. Boyette and weapons experts in East Africa, has begun using long-range, Chinese-made rockets to bombard the Nuba Mountains, adding a new weapon to an increasingly unsparing counterinsurgency strategy.
The rockets, fired from more than 25 miles away, travel at 3,000 miles per hour and pack a 330-pound warhead often loaded with steel ball bearings to increase lethality, experts say. Where they land is random, witnesses say, and they often slam into villages instead of legitimate military targets.
“They arrive without any warning,” said Helen Hughes, an arms control researcher at Amnesty International. “And they are being used indiscriminately, which is violation of international humanitarian law.”
According to Mr. Boyette, more than 70 rockets have been fired into the Nuba Mountains since December, killing 18 people, including several children.
From photographs of bomb sites and remains of the rocket motors, Western experts have identified the rockets as Chinese-manufactured Weishi truck-launched rockets. China is one of Sudan’s closest strategic allies, buying billions of dollars of Sudanese oil and selling Sudan advanced weaponry.
The Sudanese government does not deny using rockets in the Nuba Mountains, insisting that they are a legitimate weapon.
“Rockets are part of combat,” said Al-Sawarmi Khalid, a Sudanese military spokesman. “And the armed groups also use the same rockets and weapons we use.”
Witnesses in the Nuba Mountains said the rebels used a much smaller, shorter-range rocket, and only during battles.
The government rockets are the latest twist in one of Africa’s more intractable conflicts. Tens of thousands of rebel fighters in the Nuba Mountains refuse to disarm, saying that they are fighting for more autonomy from a government that has marginalized and persecuted them. The Sudanese government’s response has been to lay siege to the area: bombarding it, cutting off the roads, blocking emergency supplies and most aid workers and outside observers.
Some analysts see similarities between the brutal tactics used in Nuba and those employed in Darfur, in Sudan’s west, during the height of the violence there several years ago.
The Nuba conflict is complicated by the separation of South Sudan from Sudan in July. The Nuban fighters were historically allied to the south but after South Sudan’s independence found themselves just north of the new border, in hostile territory.
Mr. Boyette, the aid worker, is one of the only Westerners providing battlefield updates. He came to the area several years ago to work for an American aid organization, married a local woman and refused to leave once the conflict began.
Sudan and South Sudan are divided over oil, having not yet come up with an agreement of how to share oil profits. While 75 percent of the oil is in the south, the pipeline to export it runs through the north. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that in the coming weeks Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, would make his first visit to South Sudan since the country gained independence to meet with South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir.
Isma’il Kushkush contributed reporting from Khartoum, Sudan.
Israel has not celebrated the day but for months there is an on-going soul-searching activity in Israel that on the one hand blames itself and the US advise at the time of not to seem to be those that start a war. Yes, Israel starts to see publicly now that it was a pawn in a global chess game. But what is more important – Israel sees it did not take advantage of the outcome of that war in order to solve the Palestinian problem. Simply said it could have been the liberator of the Palestinians from their unfaithful brothers, but opted to become their new oppressors.
The oil games created and paid for Al-Qaeda. The Jinny unleashed from the Saudi Arabian oil-barrels turned against the US, and the US now, while Washington is under siege by the army of an extremist Republican Congress, it is the newer Al Shabab that carries the torch of Al-Qaeda with other tentacles in Yemen and all over else. Will the Republicans see that they act in cohoots with the oil interests and are stabbing the US in the back?
Abu Anas al Libi was being detained by the U.S. military in a “secure location outside of Libya,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said late Saturday night.
Al Libi is an al Qaeda leader wanted for his role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
He was captured in one of two raids nearly 3,000 miles apart this weekend.
U.S. forces captured al Libi in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. In the second raid, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Somalia targeted a leader of Al-Shabaab, which was behind last month’s mall attack in Kenya. The SEALs came under fire and had to withdraw before they could confirm whether the leader was dead, a senior U.S. official said.
In Tripoli, American forces captured a Libyan militant who had been indicted in 2000 for his role in the 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The militant, born Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai and known by his nom de guerre, Abu Anas al-Liby, had a $5 million bounty on his head; his capture at dawn ended a 15-year manhunt.
In Somalia, the Navy SEAL team emerged before sunrise from the Indian Ocean and exchanged gunfire with militants at the home of a senior leader of the Shabab, the Somali militant group. The raid was planned more than a week ago, officials said, after a massacre by the Shabab at a Nairobi shopping mall that killed more than 60 people two weeks ago.
The New York Times writes: “With President Obama locked in a standoff with Congressional Republicans and his leadership criticized for a policy reversal in Syria, the raids could fuel accusations among his critics that the administration was eager for a showy foreign policy victory.”
Are we supposed to see in the Republicans’ digging under the US might something positive rather then the un-American activity that they perpetuate? We rather congratulate the President, the FBI, and the CIA, for picking the coincidental date of October 5-th and see in this a sign that the US is learning lessons from events 40 years old.
His capture was the latest blow to what remains of the original Al-Qaeda organization after a 12-year American campaign to capture or kill its leadership, including the killing two years ago of its founder, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan.
Despite his presence in Libya, Abu Anas was not believed to have played any role in the 2012 attack on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, senior officials briefed on that investigation have said, but he may have sought to build networks connecting what remains of the Qaeda organization to like-minded militants in Libya.
His brother, Nabih, told The Associated Press that just after dawn prayers, three vehicles full of armed men had approached Abu Anas’s home and surrounded him as he parked his car. The men smashed his window, seized his gun and sped away with him, the brother said.
A senior American official said the Libyan government had been apprised of the operation and provided assistance, but it was unclear in what capacity. An assistant to the prime minister of the Libyan transitional government said the government had been unaware of any operation or of Abu Anas’s capture. Asked if American forces had ever conducted raids inside Libya or collaborated with Libyan forces, Mehmoud Abu Bahia, assistant to the defense minister, replied, “Absolutely not.”
Disclosure of the raid is likely to inflame anxieties among many Libyans about their national sovereignty, putting a new strain on the transitional government’s fragile authority. Many Libyan Islamists already accuse their interim prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, who previously lived in Geneva as part of the exiled opposition to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, of collaborating too closely with the West.
Abu Anas, 49, was born in Tripoli and joined Bin Laden’s organization as early as the early 1990s, when it was based in Sudan. He later moved to Britain, where he was granted political asylum as a Libyan dissident. United States prosecutors in New York charged him in a 2000 indictment with helping to conduct “visual and photographic surveillance” of the United States Embassy in Nairobi in 1993 and again in 1995. Prosecutors said in the indictment that Abu Anas had discussed with another senior Qaeda figure the idea of attacking an American target in retaliation for the United States peacekeeping operation in Somalia.
After the 1998 bombing, the British police raided his apartment and found an 18-chapter terrorist training manual. Written in Arabic and titled “Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants,” it included advice on car bombing, torture, sabotage and disguise.
Since the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, Tripoli has slid steadily into lawlessness, with no strong central government or police presence. It has become a safe haven for militants seeking to avoid detection elsewhere, and United States government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information, have acknowledged in recent months that Abu Anas and other wanted terrorists had been seen moving freely around the capital.
The operation to capture Abu Anas was several weeks in the making, a United States official said, and President Obama was regularly briefed as the suspect was tracked in Tripoli. Mr. Obama had to approve the capture. He had often promised there would be “no boots on the ground” in Libya when the United States intervened there in March 2011, so the decision to send in Special Operations forces was a risky one.
Muslim World Must Declare Zero Tolerance for Militant Jihadists.
By: Fahad Nazer for Al-Monitor Posted on July 28, 2013.
Islamo-fascism is a malicious term. It is meant to draw an analogy between the doctrines of contemporary militant Islamist groups and those of the defeated World War II Axis powers. Primarily used by people who are experts on neither Islam nor fascism, the term intends to stoke fears of “Islamic” armies marching across the world, oppressing non-Muslims and imposing Sharia. That is, unless they are first “stopped.”
While this narrative bolsters the argument of Islamist militants, who maintain that the West is waging a “crusade” against Muslims everywhere, Muslims are in dire need of a paradigm shift: They must re-evaluate the centrality of the doctrine of “jihad” in Islam, and consider its militant variant as more than a source of tension with the West.
Much like the ideology that brought unspeakable pain and destruction to the entire European continent and beyond, militant jihad — as opposed to its spiritual variant — must be seen as posing an existential threat to Muslim civilization.
As luck would have it, I was living in Washington, DC on Sept. 11, 2001; in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia on Nov. 20, 1979, when militants seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca and declared the coming of the mahdi (the Islamic equivalent of the Messiah); and in Alexandria, Egypt on Oct. 6, 1981, when militants assassinated President Anwar Sadat. I have also had the misfortune of attending a handful of Friday sermons delivered by Anwar al-Awlaki — the al-Qaeda propagandist who was killed in Yemen in 2011 — when I lived in Virginia. Just as importantly, I analyze the discourse of militant Islamists for a living. The tendency of a small but vocal minority of Muslims to advocate violent actions to correct perceived injustices is a serious malady that should concern Muslims everywhere.
Extremists readily declare Muslims with whom they disagree over doctrinal — or even political — issues to be “unbelievers,” and enjoin their followers to defend “true” Muslims against these “collaborators” who are assisting the West in its onslaught against Islam. This call to arms resonates when it is framed in the context of ongoing political conflicts in which Muslims are portrayed as being besieged by the “enemies of God.” One can see this phenomenon most clearly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Contrary to their rhetoric, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Somalia’s al-Shabab, the different variants of Ansar al-Sharia and a host of other militant groups, including Hezbollah, have not engaged in a war against the West: Their victims have overwhelmingly been other Muslims.
A 2010 study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point confirmed what many of us Muslims knew all along: 85% of al-Qaeda’s victims between 2004 and 2008 lived in Muslim-majority nations. A more recent study by the RAND Corporation similarly found that about 98% of al-Qaeda’s attacks between 1998 and 2011 were “part of an insurgency where operatives tried to overthrow a local government or secede from it — and were not in the West.”
The ruthless terrorist attacks in places as varied as Baghdad, Peshawar, Sanaa, Algiers, Kandahar, Riyadh, Amman, Mogadishu and Timbuktu show the dubious nature of the militants’ claims. Both Sunni and Shiite militants who have jumped into the fray in Syria have characterized their brutal attacks against Muslims of the opposing sect as “jihad.”
While the West is mostly concerned with sporadic terrorist attacks that Islamist militants have conducted in cities such as New York, Madrid and London, Muslims should be more concerned about the sustained onslaught against Muslim-majority states. In places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, militants have eroded not only any semblance of peace and stability, but have injected an insidious sectarianism that has seriously weakened social fabrics. It is no wonder that nations where militants have established a foothold and continue to contest state legitimacy find themselves topping the lists of failed states year after year.
Oddly enough, the country most often singled out as the main “exporter” of militant Islam across the globe — Saudi Arabia — seems to appreciate the danger that this politicized jihad poses to Muslims more than most. While Saudi authorities have not completely expunged jihadist rhetoric from public discourse — the presence of Saudis among militants in Syria indicates that more work is needed — the multi-pronged approach Saudis have implemented to uproot militants and their ideology aims to delegitimize the notion that engaging in violence is the ultimate act of religious devotion.
The Saudi counter-terrorism effort has been part security operation, part public awareness campaign. Although authorities have arrested hundreds of militants and killed many of their leaders, it is the pre-emptive measures that authorities have taken that are the most noteworthy, as they target the root of the problem.
Saudi authorities suspended hundreds of mosque imams and school teachers who espoused militant views. They also apprehended militant sympathizers and put hundreds of them through rehabilitation programs that aim for the renouncement of their violent views. They have even revised their school curriculum, and tried to more narrowly define and limit the concept of jihad: when Muslims can wage it and who can declare it. Mosque imams have also been warned not to deliver politically charged sermons.
This holistic, zero-tolerance approach should be attempted in other Muslim-majority countries. Thousands of Muslims have already paid with their lives. To say that millions more lives are at stake is not an exaggeration.
Read more: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/original…
Mr. Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson for The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, speaking to the UN accredited PRESS, Monday July 15th, ended his daily briefing by saying:
“This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke to a large group of representatives from non-governmental organizations and the private sector on international migration and development. He emphasized the need to establish sustained and strong partnerships between different actors to harness the benefits of migration and improve the situation of migrants. He also commended the role played by civil society in building such partnerships.
He said that the General Assembly was meeting on international migration and development in October, and that this was an opportunity for member States to lay the foundation for improved local, regional and international migration policies.” That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, Pam?
This statement relates to full three days of activities right here at the UN Headquarters in New York and across the street in the Church Center – which followed a full year of preparations outside the UN in a process that was started in 2006 when there was a UN General Assembly mandated first “High-Level” Dialogue on this topic and was succeeded by yearly meetings and further regional meetings.
At Rio the recommendations included the removal of the non-producing Commission on Sustainable Development and its replacement with a High-Level Panel that will look into the creation of a system of Sustainable Development Goals that will follow in 2015 after the expiring Millennium Development Goals – and this allows for an unusual opportunity to try for making the avoidance of the need of Migration into a Sustainable Development Goal. But the UN seems to oppose this by all the means it has – and I will explain.
You see – when I walk the streets of New York these days I bump into people. This is because the daily temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit and people do not walk in a straight line. You must try to anticipate which way they will deviate – and I am as guilty as anyone else – this because global warming and Climate Change are already here with us. Relating to our topic here – MIGRATION occurs now not just because people are attracted by magnets of freedom from dictatorships, from religious or sexual oppression, or because of a chance to better education, but now – more and more – there is the push of hunger – climate change has made it impossible to support populations in their country of origin and this migration has become the highest security issue in our days. If heat and Climate Change is impacting New York, just think what this has done in Mali or Darfur!
The UN is not blind to this. The UN Secretary-General was supposed to be the opening speaker at the Monday, July 15, 2013 event at the meeting at the UN General Assembly with Mr. Vuk Jeremik, President of the General Assembly as Chairman of the session. But Mr. Ban Ki-moon chose to be on a July fact finding tour of Europe that took him to see the effects of glaciers melting in Iceland, and a visit in Paris on Bastille Day with the French troops fighting in Mali.
Both above visits, as well as the meetings in-between, would have made a great story had the UN Secretary-General returned to New York and told on Monday July 15th his impressions to the meeting here. But this seemingly did not cross his mind, and surely this is no reflection on the way Mr. Elliason presented the case. It must be said that seven years ago – at the first dialogue – Mr. Eliasson presided because it was his position of President of the UN General Assembly, so he is well versed with the issues – the roles of Civil Society, Labor Unions and Employers’ organizations, diaspora organizations, and academics. He stressed that the challenge is to reach to the help of the media – “Knowing the facts is the source of wisdom” he quoted.
Mr. Eliasson said he wants to see as a post 2015 program a five year action program in five areas of priority:
What he did not mention is the right of people to avoid migration that was pushed upon them because of changes in the local environment.
Mr. Jeremik reminded us of the Rio vision for the post-2015 as an aspiration to strive for equitable approaches to overcome poverty and inequality.
At the meeting on Monday participated over 200 Civil Society organizations and 80 UN member States.
I sat through the full three days and saw that very good people from all over the globe were present – but by no means was this an objective success.
Starting with the strong Swiss presence I must say that as Migration means Emigration from one place and Immigration to another – this except Migration within the same country, Switzerland is a country of poor record as it does not allow citizenship except when the candidate is weighed in gold – and I am not abstract on this – Just think of the Agha Khan and his Swiss based Foundation. So, when A good looking lady presented herself as a migrant from El Salvador to Switzerland, with dual nationality and diamonds sparkling from her earrings, spoke about the Global Economic Forum backing the economic advantages that come from migration – I had to wonder about what I was hearing. Then let us not forget that simple mortals could not stay in Switzerland when their life was in peril. In general – I was more impressed by the people in the room then by some of the presenters, as in UN fashion – the good turns easily into the trite, and good ideas can produce easily flying meetings that are not free to the introduction of ideas born outside the initiating circle. Trying to introduce the notion that the UN is changing and that MDGs are ending with new SDGs taking their place, and the fact that the UN just opened this month the office for Sustainable Energy – the SE4All concept, and that right now there is an opportunity to talk of migration in context of Climate Change – all that was beyond the interest of the organizers and the moderators – but very much of interest of many of the participants.
Civil Society is surely a mixed bag, and the stress on remittances from the Migrants back to their families in the homeland become very important part of the economies of some oppressive governments – so, indiscriminately stressing the economic value may not be any better idea then using military from countries in trouble in order to beef up the troops of UN Peace-Keeping forces in other countries in trouble, when the pay for this service is income for the government that sends these troops. This comment may have nothing to do with the subject at hand but is important to the understanding of the depth of the problem when you work in he UN context.
Without delving further in depth of what was said, this because the meetings were just an interactive exercise that will generate its own papers, the real news this Monday were not the Civil Society NGOs that were allowed to participate – but rather those organizations that were excluded in total lack of transparency and thus gave a blue eye to the UN institution as a whole.
The subject came up when the United States pointed out that three NGOs were eliminated from participation this last week by being BLACKBALLED by some secret member State. These were three organizations – one registered in the UK and two in Israel and the UN does not release the names of the countries that objected to their participation. TO ME THIS WAS THE REAL NEWS OF THE MEETING – COVERING ON ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT WERE SAID AT THE MEETING.
After the US, spoke also Israel and the EU, and eventually this became an important part in the summary of the meeting, when at the end it was presented by the Chef de Cabinet to the UNGA President, Mr. Dejan Sahovic, who is also from Serbia like the UNGA President.
Mr. Sahovic explained that this had nothing to do with the organizers of the event but is a UN given. Whenever there is an event at the UN, after Civil Society makes up the list of registered NGOs, these lists are distributed to all governments which have then the veto right against any line on that list.
OK, we knew that China will take out any NGO that is based in Taiwan, but how is it that an observer organization at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that is competent in the subject matter and is very active, could be eliminated? To make it sound even worse – the UN does not release the name of the blackballing country and the delegate for the EU said clearly that the EU is worried about the lately decreasing importance of Civil Society at the UN.
In this case it was with two NGOs with interest in Human Rights of Women – specifically women in Arab lands – even more specific – in Saudi Arabia – they DID SPEAK UP.
1. The Institute for Human Rights and Business Limited (IHRB) is the British organization.
2. Microfy – “Microfinance for African refugees and migrant workers in Israel” – an Israeli based NGO that provides assistance to African refugees and asylum seekers, many of them who fled the genocide in Darfur. www.microfy.org Clearly a highly ethical organization that might have difficulty being listened to by despots.
3.”The Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI)” advises governments and NGOs around the world on migration and integration.
From Turkey on the Nile to Islamic Iran and onto Ramallah’s Manara Square, the HAARETZ of Israel is viewing political evolution in the Middle East. The good news is that there is an alternative to Islamism – the bad news is that chaos is an option.
www.haaretz.com/st/inter/Heng/new… – Morsi’s year – Morsi unilaterally decrees greater powers for himself, giving his decisions immunity from judicial review. The move sparks days of protests and it brings about his ouster.
Turkey on the Nile
The week that Hosni Mubarak was ousted, a senior Israeli official was asked what would happen in Egypt. The official answered in his favorite language, English: Turkey one, Turkey two or Iran – a seemingly democratic government run by the army, a seemingly democratic government run by Islam, or an Islamist regime.
Two and a half years later, the possibility of getting an Iran in Egypt can clearly be ruled out. The Nile country will not become a theocracy ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood in the near future. But from the beginning of 2011, the other two possibilities have been vying with each other in Cairo.
What is happening before our eyes is a well organized Egyptian attempt to replace the new Turkish alternative of religious rule in democratic guise with the old Turkish alternative of military rule in democratic guise.
But as Turkey one replaces Turkey two, a third option emerges – disorder. While the Islamic threat to Egypt’s future is diminishing, the new, growing threat is one of chaos. The good news is very good – political Islam is not invincible. The religious wave that flooded the Middle East in the past two years is not the last historic wave.
As of today, the Muslim Brotherhood failed to establish a lasting regime and a lasting reality. While the Soviet revolution founded a tyranny that lasted 70 years, the Sunni Islamic revolution didn’t set up a functioning political system to preserve its hegemony for even one year. Anyone who feared a century of dark caliphates was wrong. Anyone who believed in the new Egyptians’ life forces and desire for freedom was right. Within an extremely short time our neighbors from the south learned that Islam is not the solution, and that they must seek the solution elsewhere.
But the bad news is troubling. Egypt 2013 appears as a state with no solution. On the one hand the economy is collapsing and rapidly approaching meltdown. On the other hand there’s no civilian force to impose law and order. The expectations of the Google age are high, while the reality of hungry mouths is intolerable. Between the expectations and reality there is no meeting point, and between the spirit of freedom and the crumbling republic there is no starting point.
Consequently, Egypt is becoming a dysfunctional, hopeless, ungovernable state. Where Mubarak and Morsi failed, another failure is very likely. Two different trends dovetail at the pyramids’ foot. One is global – a rebellion of the urban middle class. What began in Tahrir, moved to Rothschild, erupted in Istanbul and boiled over in Rio De Janeiro has returned to Tahrir in a big way. As in the rest of the world, in Egypt the youngsters connected to the Internet are no longer willing to accept not being connected to the spigots of the government, and are therefore toppling it.
The second trend is an Arab one – the collapse of secular tyranny and the failure of religious tyranny have generated constant unrest. In the absence of a strong dictator, an intelligent Kadi or a Jeffersonian democracy, there is nobody to regulate public life and restrain the masses.
The merging of global rebellion with the Arab loss of fear has released in Cairo 2013 a concussion blast no regime can withstand. Not the previous regime, not the present one nor the next one. In the absence of a government, an exciting, terrifying situation of uprisings was created – uprisings that are leading Egypt to the brink of an abyss.
Ultimately, the only chance is Turkey one. In the present day Egypt and present day Middle East, anyone hoping for more than enlightened generals can give – will get less. But the question whether the Egyptian army will be able to give the people modern enlightenment remains open. Chaos crouches on the threshold. The new danger hovering over the Middle East is that of complete disorder.
An Egyptian renaissance
In 1918, ten years before the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, a delegation ?(wafd in Arabic?) was organized, in order to demand that the British grant Egypt its independence. It was led by Saad Zaghloul, who was called “leader of the nation.” Before the delegation set off, prominent Egyptians signed a petition in support of the group using its power to work peacefully ?(salmiya in Arabic?) to achieve independence and “the implementation of the principles of freedom and justice.” On this basis, the al-Wafd party, which won most elections it contested, was later formed.
This is part of the explanation for the exhilarating phenomenon that is unfolding before our eyes, when 17 million Egyptians from across the country rose up against the Brotherhood. This flies in the face of those who tried to convince us that if the Brotherhood rose to power, total bedlam ? a war of Gog and Magog ? would erupt throughout the land. Well, the Brotherhood rose and the Brotherhood fell and amazingly the sun continues to shine. Egypt is returning to its roots. And Egyptian roots aren’t buried in violent religious profiteering or in the dictatorship of Mubarak, but in the magnificent heritage of Saad Zaghloul, which itself is the product of the Arabic renaissance that dates from the beginning of the 18th century until the start of the 19th century.
And thus, in January 2011, when the youth instinctually adopted the way of salmiya they were in fact continuing along the path their grandfathers chose 93 years ago. And now, in response to the demagoguery of the Brotherhood, which believes that the electoral ballots give them the power to destroy the democracy that brought them to govern, these youth have adopted the model of the petition from those days, in their call for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to resign. To date, 22 million people have signed the petition.
True, in their return to the magnificent roots of the 7,000 year-old Egyptian civilization they had no choice but to pass through the dark halls of the Brotherhood, but within a year they passed the test. During these formative hours, the Egyptian people are returning to the heritage of their forefathers in its new incarnation: “Bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity.” All this is expressed quite beautifully in the famous 1919 song by Egyptian singer Sayed Darwish, “Oum Ya Masry” ?(“Rise, You Egyptian”?). Among the song’s lyrics it says, “Love your neighbor more than you love life. What does it mean Christians, Muslims or Jews…we are all the descendants of one grandfather.” Here you have the beautiful Egypt in three lines, which should be brought to the attention of those brainwashed by the nation state.
Last Sunday, Egyptian religious leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qardawi pleaded with the masses to give Morsi another year. At present, Morsi is asking for just half a year. To loosely translate an Arabic expression, “His time has passed.” Prominent Egyptian journalist Ibrahim Eissa has urged Morsi’s sons to convince their father to hop on a flight abroad in order to save him and the Egyptian people the shame of removing a president.
During Sunday’s giant demonstrations, the people’s anger was also directed at Ann Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt. According to author Alaa al-Aswany, Patterson is the one who convinced the American administration to support the Brotherhood, arguing that only the Brotherhood could protect American and Israeli interests. This is yet more proof of the stupidity of Middle East experts who see Arabs only through the lens of their dictators.
What’s more, Egyptians see a connection between, on the one hand, the pressure Morsi placed on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire with Israel in December and, on the other hand, American support for the draconian measures taken by the Egyptian president to undermine the legal system, including the passage of the controversial constitution. They see a connection between the love heaped upon Morsi by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres and the steps Morsi took the day after the ceasefire agreement.
The day will come when the dramatic waves of change in Egypt sweep the entire Middle East. Israel, which is taking a position that contradicts the desire of the Egyptian people, would be wise to begin to change its way of thinking if it doesn’t want to find itself going against the current of the Arab Spring that is reawakening.
One day, Ramallah will rise up
One day the Palestinian people will rise up against their occupiers. I hope this day comes soon.
It’s true that this scenario seems unrealistic right now. The Palestinians are still bleeding from the second intifada, which only brought disaster upon them (and the Israelis). They are divided and torn, with no real leadership and lacking a fighting spirit, and the world has tired of their distress. The Israeli occupation seems as strong and established as ever, the settlements are growing, and the military is in complete control, with all the world’s governments silent and indifferent.
On the other hand, it is impossible to imagine that this scenario will not materialize. To our south, the Egyptian people are struggling over the nature of their regime, in a way that can only inspire awe. To the north, the Syrian people are also doing this, albeit in a much crueler fashion. Could it be that only the Palestinian people will forever bow their heads, submissively and obediently, to the Israeli jackboot? Don’t make the minister of history laugh.
The regimes against which most of the Arab nations are rebelling were generally less brutal than the regime of the Israeli occupation. They were also less corrupt, in the broad sense of the word. Most did not take over the lives of their subjects day and night, did not so drastically restrict their movement and freedom, did not systematically abuse and humiliate them in the manner of the Israeli regime. Moreover, they were not foreign regimes.
Therefore, the events at Tahrir Square will surely be replicated one day in Ramallah’s Manara Square. The masses will flood the Unknown Soldier’s Square in Gaza, push into Police Square in Hebron and storm all the checkpoints along their way. It is hard now to imagine it happening, but it is even more difficult to imagine that it will not.
It seems to happen when you least expect it. No Military Intelligence report will predict it, and no Shin Bet field coordinator will warn about it. The defense minister will act shocked, the prime minister will convene urgent consultations, and the finance minister will post something on Facebook. The president of the United States will call for calm, and who knows, maybe will send a special envoy. The world’s most powerful and especially most moral military will try to restore order, but the new order will assert its control over the army as well.
As with other unjust and evil regimes, which are always destined to fall, this regime also will fall – it’s just not clear when and how. Sometimes these regimes fall in the wake of terrible bloodshed, as in Syria, and sometimes they fall on their own, like a tall tree whose trunk has rotted, as happened in the Soviet Union, South Africa and Eastern Europe. One day it will happen here, too; there is no other way.
It would be best that this day come soon; too bad it hasn’t come yet. The Israeli public, which didn’t know how to end its occupation regime on its own, will also act surprised, and offended. Again they will say that “there’s no partner,” that “they’re like animals,” but no one will take these statements seriously. Israel will again play the victim, but few will be able to identify with it anymore.
Why is it best that this happens soon? Because as time passes, the damage and rage accumulate. Because there is no chance that Israel will end the occupation voluntarily. Because justice cries out for it to happen. Because whether the solution is one state or two, an Israel that isn’t an occupier, that is just and egalitarian, will be a different and infinitely better place to live.
The UN Advisory Committee of Administrative and Budgetary Questions asks – Why is The Office of the UN Special Representative to the Sahel located in Rome, with Romano Prodi as its Head, while he was pursuing the Presidency of Italy?
Matthew Russell Lee reports from the UN that Amid Sahel Standstill, UN Committee Asks Why Prodi Is Based in Rome.
UNITED NATIONS, May 10, 2013 — When Romano Prodi, ostensibly the UN’s envoy on if not in the Sahel, became a candidate for the Italian presidency, the UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made excuses, telling Inner City Press the question of conflict of interest was “moot,” because Prodi lost.
But the UN Advisory Committee of Administrative and Budgetary Questions is not so forgiving. Their report on Prodi’s office says that Prodi’s fundraising
And so, “the Advisory Committee recommends that the General Assembly invite the Secretary-General to review the current arrangements for the Office of the Special Envoy and to consider alternative locations of the Office in the Sahel region. In developing his proposals, the Secretary-General should be requested to take full advantage of the opportunities for realizing synergies with the other United Nations entities present in the countries of the region, and avoid all duplicative activity.”
Why is Prodi allowed to be based in Rome? And what has he accomplished?
We post this because this is a point well taken when reviewing the wasteland called the UN – but we do not intend this as an attack on Mr. Romano Prodi whom we know from years past. He is an Italian politician who understood the issue of climate change and the problems of reliance on Middle East Petroleum. He surely can do a lot of good under UN employment, but then the UN must hire him in ways that do not allow for mistakes, or even reasons for criticism like the above.
The Sahel is the black Africa arc just south of the Muslim Arab Maghreb and Egypt – the region that includes Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Senegal. A region that knows the effect of climate change causing drought and conditions that push the region to get involved in the Affairs of the North Africa Arab arc and its Arab awakening from one set of dictators and moving into the arms of Islamic extremists. This while European States like Spain, France, and Italy, with past colonial ties to the region, may thus be not the ideal moderators of the budding new debate of Arab Nationalism at the time of effects of drought caused by climate change. The whole issue needs much more serious UN review then the UN has shown up to now. Would Dakar be the right place to seat Mr. Prodi?
On Mali at Columbia, Nameless Discussion of Colonialism & Other Big Issues
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 2 — On Mali there was an event at Columbia University Tuesday night, advertised as “free and open to the public, but please register by writing.” So Inner City Press did, identifying itself as the Press, listing its office at the UN.
Columbia’s Stephen Wertheim, the last name you’ll see in this piece, wrote back, “You are now registered for the talk, which starts at 7:30 pm. We look forward to seeing you there.”
After that, notice of the event was further publicized on the website of the Free UN Coalition for Access, as still is another event at the UN this Thursday.
After a final story about the day’s Arms Trade Treaty vote in the UN General Assembly, Inner City Press arrived at the event. There were twenty to twenty five people, of all ages — and all nameless here.
After a lengthy speech and two social media missives, as the question and answer began, the moderator suddenly said — and we’ll paraphrase and not quote here — that he should have said so from the beginning, this would be under Chatham House rules, you can use the idea but no quote.
And so what were the ideas?
That the media focuses too much on the military offensive, which one participant called the kinetic aspect.
That there is a lot of corruption even in the south of Mali.
That the Malian military commits human rights violations, and that the UN does not have the resources to have a crew of human rights observers ready to go there.
That the UN will soon name a Special Representative of the Secretary General.
That the Malian press is reporting rumors of relations of Nicolas Sarkozy and the MNLA. (Inner City Press has been more focused on Sarkozy’s hardly concealed try out to help invest Qatar’s money, with his contacts in the center-right government in Spain.)
That the Security Council implicitly endorsed the French approach.
Inner City Press, which is surely free to report its own questions but apparently not the answers, asked if the envisioned “parallel force” would be under UN control; if coup leader Amadou Sanogo will continue to play a role in the Malian military, and how the fast action to defend Bamako differed from the decision to let Bagui in the Central African Republic fall.
There was a response to each question, but how to report the answers under the spirit of the Chatham House rules is not clear.
As Inner City Press left it was told, despite the language of the invitation and its RSVP as the Press, that it is somehow understood that events in the university are under Chatham House rules.
No, that is not automatically understood. People give on the record speeches at universities. In fact, since students have Facebook pages and blogs and, yes, Twitter accounts, it is entirely unclear what restriction on a class or seminar would look like, or how they could work.
Nevertheless, Inner City Press has complied with the belatedly announced Chatham House rules. Who is served? The Security Council hears Wednesday on Mali. Watch this site.
Footnote: the UN office that Inner City Press listed on its RSVP has, as we’ve noted, been raided by the UN and others on March 18.
Chasing Islamists in the Mountains of Mali, or is it the Dunes? What goes on in Sahelistan – Is this a new Islamistan? Is it a fight for resources? A World of Multi-Partnerships? Will there be an AZAWAD?
Back at the end of January 2013 we posted – based on an article in “Der Spiegel” – that reached us via the UN Wire – that there was in the making an Islamistan, much more dangerous to the West then the AfPak (Afghanistan & Pakistan) region. This will be a Sahelistan ranging from Mauritania to Somalia, right there as a second southern complete layer to the Mediterranean shore Arab States that stretch from Morocco to Egypt. We call this the SAHELISTAN. Its front line is in Mali, Niger, and Chad.
This layer of Islamism is a combination of conservative Islam used as mortar to bind together locally inspired aspirations to free themselves of the Arab century old imposed rulers and like in the Maghreb States and Libya and Egypt, is supported by the religious leaders out of pure opportunism.
Our old posting is:
Now, in Vienna, I realize further the influence of this newly evolving threat and the reality that Europe is happy to let France, the former Colonial power in that region, shoulder the problem by itself. Further, it is France that running its National energy network on nuclear power, is totally depended on the Uranium they get from those countries, while other Members of the EU have no such dependence.
Further, as we noted last month, at the time of the Vienna Conference of the “Alliance of Civilizations” – as shown by the regional division among the Workshops in that meeting, the Central European States have sort of distanced themselves from the Mediterranean States by showing their economic interest as an extension from Central Europe to Central Asia – that is the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and beyond to the other smaller Muslim States that were part of the former Soviet Union. This leaves the Southern EU States to worry about the Muslim MENA region (Middle East – North Africa) and Turkey – if it has to be.
We also suggested a third tier – the Northern tier – and that is the line that connects the Scandinavian countries – Germany – Poland – with Russia.
But that is not where Vienna left this part of the world.
In March I participated further at two wide scope events:
(1) March 11, 2013, the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) where Editor Walter Haemmerle of the Wiener Zeitung, was the moderator between three Members of OIIP – all Professors at the University but coming from different areas of interest – Prof. Heinz Gaertner – a political Scientist, Prof. Jan Pospisil for the Arab Space – in particular North Africa, and Prof. Cengiz Guenay, for the Near East/ Middle East Space.
The topic was USA – Near East – Mali – in context of Changes of International Applications of Power.
(2) March 21, 2013, the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) - www.VIDC.org – using the space at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialog – dealt with a more limited topic – and therefore could go down to quite some depth – “Mali: Perspectives for the Political Come-Back.”
The two Malians were – Ismaeel Sory Maiega, Director of the study Center of Languages and African Cultures, and the European Representative of the Tuareg-organized Insurgency MNLA – Mouvement National de Liberation de l’Azawad – National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, Mr. Moussa Assarid.
Ms. Biloa is also the President “Club Millennium” in Paris – an African Think Tank and training place for leadership.
From the OIIP event:
The issue is the US – it is retrenching from the Reagan – G.W. Bush (the son) days of overextended global involvements – so issues like the insurgency in Mali and other Islamization aspects of North Africa, are to be from now on pure European problems. Even the Middle East will have to take care of itself – the most the US will do is to express encouragement for others to act. Professor Gaertner studied the US elections and his view of the Obama II Administration is very similar to what we wrote on our website. The US is readjusting to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with China its main focus, so much of what goes on in the Muslim Space will have to be filled in by others. Europeans will have to look across the Mediterranean for their own sake.
Dr. Jan Pospisil did his PhD thesis on US-German military cooperation and then looked at East Africa and Sri-Lanka. Like Prof. Gaertner he sees in Syria the biggest problem for the topic of human rights and both think that this is an area that Austria will pay attention as well. With this background it becomes interesting to note that the Austrian participation in Mali is with 9 people.
Dr. Cengiz Guenay wrote his PhD thesis on “Islam as a political factor in Turkey” and found Libya, Egypt, and now Syria as his main fields of interest and he is called in quite often to explain the situation to the media.
The two main points I marked myself from this discussion were:
A. that Turkey is now a TRADING STATE and will do whatever Mr. Erdogan finds opportune for the literal moment.
B. The World – Instead of Multi-polarity – now it will be MULTI-PARTNERSHIPS.
Then at the VIDC/Bruno Kreisky Forum event we got to know Mr. Assarid a full blooded Tuareg, dressed to prove it, who speaks about the Azawad State they want to carve out from the Northern half of Mali – the five towns – Timbuktu, Lere, Hombori, Gao, and Kidal. His bio says he is a writer, journalist and comedian – living in Paris since 1999. He has appeared on TV in several series as actor. He was saying that the Tuaregs have a National movement that is secular. They are not part of an Islamic uprising and their problem is rather that the other side – the present government in Bamako – that took over from an elected government by military coup – is the one that may help the North Africa Al-Qaeda – not the Tuaregs.
Listening to him, and to his opponent, Professor. Maiega, who is an intellectual – head of a Bamako Institute to promote indigenous languages and African Civilizations, it seems that in effect both of them are more interested in traditional African culture then in Islam, and in effect it is France’s interest in holding on to its previous Colony that is the most problematic aspect of this entanglement. Is it all because of the Uranium, coal, and other natural resources found in Mali? Will this move on to Niger and Chad? What would happen if Mali is allowed to split amicably into two States? Could this be worse then seeing it unravel in fighting that allows other groups to mix the boiling pot?
The French say they want to bring down their fighting troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of April, and have by that time trained the Mali government troops, and the West African troops, that offered to help. I say – Do not hold your breath – I say.
The problem with the desert people maybe much more complicated then what was presented. There is money to be made from those natural resources, and from kidnapping people for ransom. The desert is big and people rather unemployed – so the few can muster the rest, and bamboozle with religion cooked up with social, ethnic, tribal arguments to boot – this works in a world that thinks very little of terrorism, as an accepted tool for those that feel downtroden, and the passage to the world here-after as a move to step up an imagined personalized ladder.
Recent History as reported today – April 1, 2013: The fighting reflected the difficulty of securing Mali after a French intervention in January that pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds.
“Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses,” Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga said by telephone.
Malian military sources said soldiers were sweeping parts of the town to ensure there were no remaining rebel fighters.
At least one Malian soldier was killed in the clashes, along with more than 20 insurgents, according to a government statement on Sunday night. Residents said at least five civilians were killed in the crossfire.
An army spokesman said that groups of rebels had entered the town after setting off a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint, diverting the military’s attention.
Paris is keen to reduce its current 4,000-strong troop presence to 1,000 by the end of the year as it hands over its mission to a regional African force.
By coincidence – the following arrived in our Inbox and I find this relevant as it stresses US-Senegal relations. Senegal is a Muslim State.
04/01/2013 03:58 PM EDT
Remarks at Luncheon in Honor of Four African Democratic Partners.
William J. Burns
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
March 29, 2013
Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.
I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.
Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform — more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms. And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.
The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.
President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty. Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.
Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.
President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact. We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.
Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narcotrafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.
Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.
Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.
There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.
Thank you very much.
According to the Scottish explorer and scientist Robert Brown, Azawad is an Arabic corruption of the Berber word Azawagh, referring to a dry river basin that covers western Niger, northeastern Mali, and southern Algeria. The name translates to “land of transhumance“.
On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. In this Azawad Declaration of Independence, the name Independent State of Azawad was used (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad, Arabic: Dawlat Azaw?d al-Mustaqillah).
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine – an Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda – announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state; according to the media the new long name of Azawad was used in this pact. But this new name is not clear – sources list few variants of it: the Islamic Republic of Azawad (French: République islamique de l’Azawad), the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad), the Republic of Azawad. Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.
The MNLA has unveiled the list of 28 members of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA) serving as a provisional government with President Bilal Ag Acherif to manage the new State of Azawad.
The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim.
Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence. The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali.
On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad; it asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.
All of this points at a very confusing situation that in effect backs what we heard at the meeting of March 21, 2013 here in Vienna.
Above map suggests that the presence of Tuaregs which were nomads, is not limited to the north of Mali alone, but they are found in neighboring States as well. The history of the region involved wars that extended to Algeria and to larger Morocco. The area was part of empires that existed in Timbuktu and Gao.
Under French rule
After European powers formalized the scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference, the French assumed control of the land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, South-West Chad, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Azawad region was French in name, the principle of effectivity required France to hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government, and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, Timbuktu, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gaston Boiteux. The region became part of French Sudan (Soudan Français), a colony of France. The colony was reorganised and the name changed several times during the French colonial period. In 1899 the French Sudan was subdivided and the Azawad became part of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Moyen Niger). In 1902 it was renamed as Senegambia and Niger (Sénégambie et Niger), and in 1904 this was changed again to Upper Senegal and Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Niger). This name was used until 1920 when it became French Sudan again.
French Sudan became the autonomous state of Mali within the French Community in 1958, and Mali became independent from France in 1960. Four major Tuareg rebellions took place against Malian rule: the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962–64), the rebellion of 1990–1995, the rebellion of 2007–2009, and a 2012 rebellion. This alone should tell the world that the situation is not stable and that it can be adjusted only if autonomy is granted the Tuareg region.
In the early twenty-first century, the region became notorious for banditry and drug smuggling. The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.
On 17 January 2012, the MNLA announced the start of an insurrection in Azawad against the government of Mali, declaring that it “will continue so long as Bamako does not recognise this territory as a separate entity”.On 24 January, the MNLA won control of the town of Aguelhok, killing around 160 Malian soldiers and capturing dozens of heavy weapons and military vehicles. In March 2012, the MNLA and Ansar Dine took control of the regional capitals of Kidal and Gao along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured. After the seizure of Timbuktu on 1 April, the MNLA gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all Azawadis abroad to return home and join in constructing institutions in the new state.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared Azawad an independent state on 6 April 2012 and pledged to draft a constitution establishing it as a democracy. Their statement acknowledged the United Nations charter and said the new state would uphold its principles.
In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:
In the same interview, Assarid promised that Azawad would respect the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours; he insisted that Azawad’s declaration of independence had international legality.
No foreign entity recognised Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration was immediately rejected by the African Union, who declared it “null and no value whatsoever”. The French Foreign Ministry said it would not recognise the unilateral partition of Mali, but it called for negotiations between the two entities to address “the demands of the northern Tuareg population [which] are old and for too long had not received adequate and necessary responses”. The United States also rejected the declaration of independence.
The MNLA is estimated to have up to 3,000 soldiers. ECOWAS declared Azawad “null and void”, and said that Mali is “one and [an] indivisible entity”. ECOWAS has said that it would use force, if necessary, to put down the rebellion. The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state. Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine. MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao and Timbuktu on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of Gao, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of Timbuktu and Kidal, the three biggest cities of northern Mali. Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.
In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.
Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations. Most popular in the Tuareg movement and northern Mali as a whole is the Maliki branch of Sunnism, in which traditional opinions and analogical reasoning by later Muslim scholars are often used instead of a strict reliance on ?adith (coming directly from the Mohammed’s life and utterances) as a basis for legal judgment.
Ansar Dine follows the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam, which rejects the existence of Islamic holy men (other than Mohammed) and their teachings. They strongly object to praying around the graves of Malikite ‘holymen’, and burned down an ancient Sufi shrine in Timbuktu, which had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The people living in the central and northern Sahelian and Sahelo-Saharan areas of Mali are the country’s poorest, according to an International Fund for Agricultural Development report. Most are pastoralists and farmers practicing subsistence agriculture on dry land with poor and increasingly degraded soils. The northern part of Mali suffers from a critical shortage of food and lack of health care. Starvation has prompted about 200,000 inhabitants to leave the region.
Refugees in the 92,000-person refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania, describe the Islamists as “intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims.” The Islamists in Timbuktu have destroyed about a half-dozen historic above-ground tombs of revered holy men, proclaiming the tombs contrary to Shariah. One refugee in the camp spoke of encountering Afghans, Pakistanis and Nigerians among the invading forces.
The new Pope Kissed the Feet of a Muslim Woman in an Italian Prison this Easter, and Professor Juan Cole finds here a good place to reject the Catholic Islamophobes who criticised the Pope’s move, and he said that a poor Muslim woman is now the lowest standing person in global societies.
Dear Rightwing Catholic Islamophobes.
By Professor Juan Cole on his blog
31 March 13
ope Francis on Maundy Thursday declined to address enormous crowds. Instead he went to a prison to emulate Jesus’s act of humility before his crucifixion in washing the feet of his 12 disciples. The pope washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates, two of them women and two of them Muslim (one of the women was Muslim). It is reported that some of the prisoners broke down in tears.
Pope Francis’s willingness to wash the feet of a Muslim woman shows his concern for the very lowest stratum of society. Europe has millions of Muslims, and some are well off and well integrated into society. But many Muslims who immigrated into France and Italy for work got caught when the jobs dried up, and live in poor areas of the cities, being excluded from mainstream society or much hope of betterment. Women have lower status than men in such communities, so a poor Muslim woman in jail is just about the bottom of the social scale.
Pope Francis is from Argentina, which has a large, successful Arab-heritage community that includes Muslims, and he is said to have deeply disagreed with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, over the latter’s Regensburg speech in which he said things that Muslims found insulting.
The thing that strikes me about all this is that there is a small strand of American Catholic conservatism that frankly despises both the poor and Muslims, and is one of the pillars of prejudice against Muslims (some call it Islamophobia) in the United States. Most Catholics in opinion polls have a more positive view of Islam and Muslims than is common among evangelical Protestants, but the rightwingers among them have a thing about Muslims (and about poor people).
An example is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Rep. Peter King of New York also comes to mind. Robert Spencer has made a career of defaming Islam and Muslims. Then there is professional bully Sean Hannity of Faux News. Paul Ryan uses the insulting language of “Islamic fascism” (fascism is a Western invention; most fascists in history have been of Christian heritage; and it has nothing to do with the Muslim faith). Ryan, far from serving the poor, wants to cut social services to them by savaging the government budget, and openly boasts of following prophet of selfishness Ayn Rand.
These purveyors of hate speech against Muslims claim to be Catholics, and some of them are annoyingly Ultramontane, insisting on papal infallibility and trying to impose their values on all Americans.
Yet the person they hold to be the vicar of Christ has just given humankind a different charge, of humility and of service to the least in society, many of whom are Muslims.
So when will we see Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity and the others go to a prison to comfort inmates, and serve the Muslims among them? When will we see them kiss a Muslim’s feet? Or are they cafeteria Catholics, parading only the values that accord with their Ayn Rand heresy?
Since 2007 we have posted quite a few of the events Prof. Juan Cole expressed an opinion about them.
“Statelessness as the Core of the Palestinian Issue”
Dr. Juan Cole
The Palestine Center
The Israeli-Palestinian issue makes the area one of the world’s longest-running geopolitical hotspots. It has been characterized as a territorial dispute, or a refugee problem, or even a problem of terrorism. It has been the subject of negotiations and agreements that always seem to fall apart. Dr. Juan Cole argues that the core of the issue is the statelessness of the Palestinians and that all the other problems stem from this condition. He will explore the meaning of statelessness for human and civil rights, property rights, and standing in negotiations, as well with regard to international regimes of law and diplomacy.
Dr. Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (2009), and his Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East was published in 2007.
Cole was the recipient of the Hudson Research Professorship in 2003, the National Endowment for the Humanities grant in 1991, and the Fulbright-Hays Islamic Civilization Postdoctoral Award in 1985-86. In November 2004, he was elected president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and in 2006 was the recipient of Hunter College’s James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Since 2002, he has published the blog Informed Comment.
Were the two most important Islamist leaders of the Sahara killed? What was the part of France and Japan in the fight to exterminate the rebels that became active when the Algerian military coup tried to stop Islamists from taking over the government by the elective process.
What does the following mean when viewing what we got to call the Arab Spring and the dichotomy between twigs of democracy hope and trunks of solid Middle Ages religious zeal?
Al-Qaida loses key leader in Africa
Mastermind of Algeria attack ‘killed in Mali.’
AP, Kyodo, The Japan Times on-line, March 4, 2o13
N’DJAMENA – Chad’s military chief announced late Saturday that his troops deployed in northern Mali had killed Moktar Belmoktar, the terrorist who orchestrated the attack on a natural gas plant in Algeria that left 36 foreigners dead.
Local officials in Kidal, the northern town that is being used as the base for the military operation, cast doubt on the assertion, saying Chadian officials are attempting to score a PR victory to make up for the significant losses they have suffered in recent days.
Belmoktar’s profile soared after the mid-January attack and mass hostage-taking on a huge Algerian gas plant, during which 10 Japanese employees of engineering firm JGC Corp. were killed. His purported death comes a day after Chad’s president said his troops had killed Abou Zeid, the other main al-Qaida commander operating in northern Mali.
If both deaths are confirmed, it would mean that the international intervention in Mali had succeeded in decapitating two of the pillars of al-Qaida in the Sahara.
“Chad’s armed forces in Mali have completely destroyed a base used by jihadists and narcotraffickers in the Adrar and Ifoghas mountains” of northern Mali, Chief of Staff Gen. Zakaria Ngobongue said. “The provisional toll is as follows: Several terrorists killed, including Moktar Belmoktar.”
The French military moved into Mali on Jan. 11 to push back militants linked to Belmoktar and Abou Zeid and other extremist groups who had imposed harsh Islamic rule in the north of the vast country and who were seen as an international terrorist threat.
France is trying to rally other African troops to help in the military campaign, since Mali’s military is weak and poor. Chadian troops have offered the most robust reinforcement.
In Paris, French military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said he had “no information” on the possibility that Belmoktar was dead. The Foreign Ministry refused to confirm the report.
Belmoktar, an Algerian, is believed to be in his 40s, and like his intermittent partner, Abou Zeid, he began on the path to terrorism after Algeria’s secular government voided the 1991 election won by an Islamic party. Both men joined the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, and later its offshoot, the GSPC, a group that carried out suicide bombings on Algerian government targets.
Around 2003, both men crossed into Mali, where they began a lucrative kidnapping business, snatching European tourists, aid workers, government employees and even diplomats and holding them for ransom.
The Algerian terrorist cell amassed a significant war chest, and joined the al-Qaida fold in 2006, renaming itself al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Belmoktar claims he trained in Afghanistan in the 1990s, including in one of Osama bin Laden’s camps. It was there that he reportedly lost an eye, earning him the nickname “Laaouar,” Arabic for “one-eyed.”
Until last December, Belmoktar and Abou Zeid headed separate brigades under the flag of al-Qaida’s chapter in the Sahara. But after reports of infighting between the two, Belmoktar peeled off, announcing the creation of his own terrorist unit, still loyal to the al-Qaida ideology but separate from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
‘Darker Sides’: The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of ‘Sahelistan.’
By Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl and Thilo Thielke
This article originally appeared in German in issue 5/2013 (January 28, 2013) of DER SPIEGEL and reached us via UNWire.
There is an old church in the Niger River town of Diabaly. It was built in the days when Mali was still a colony known as French Sudan. The stone cross on the gable of the church had never bothered anyone since the French left 50 years ago and Mali became independent, even though some 90 percent of Malians are Muslim.
Now, what is left of the cross lies scattered on the ground. For the Islamists who overran Diabaly two weeks ago, bringing down the stone symbol was worth a bazooka round. They also smashed the altar and toppled wooden statuettes of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
But their reign of terror in Diabaly lasted only a few days — until the French returned. Acting on orders of French President François Hollande, French troops fired on the Islamists’ pickup trucks from the air, striking them one at a time with apparent surgical precision. According to local residents, not a single civilian died in the airstrikes.
By Tuesday morning, the last of the extremist fighters had disappeared into the bush, fleeing on foot in small groups, likely headed north.
The church has been declared off-limits, for fear that it may have been booby-trapped by the Islamists. But the colonel in charge of the French troops in the area, a muscular man with close-cropped hair, says proudly: “Diabaly is safe again.”
France’s advance northward continued through the weekend, with the military announcing they had seized control of both Gao and, on Monday morning, Timbuktu. Just as they had in Diabaly, the Islamists melted away in front of the advancing force. But they will not disappear entirely.
Larger than All of Europe
Northern Mali is just one part of the vast hinterland in which the Islamists can hide. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius refers to the rocky and sandy desert, spanning 7,500 kilometers (about 4,700 miles) from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east, as “Sahelistan.” The Sahel zone is larger than all of Europe and so impassable that no power in the world can fully control it. The French have deployed all of 2,400 troops to the region, the Germans have contributed two transport planes.
Sahelistan is the new front in the global fight against violent Islamists. Should other countries — Germany or Britain, for example — join the French with ground troops, it is quite possible that the West will become just as entrenched there as it has in the other front against global terror: Afghanistan.
The Sahel zone is a lawless region. It begins in the southern part of the Maghreb region of North Africa, where the power of the Arab countries begins to fade, and where the already weak sub-Saharan countries like Mali, Niger and Chad were never able to gain a foothold. It is a no-man’s land honeycombed with smugglers’ roads and drug routes, an El Dorado for the lawless and fanatics.
The war has become increasingly brutal. Although an Islamist faction from Kidal in northern Mali announced on Wednesday that it was willing to negotiate, there was also news of atrocities committed by the Malian army, which reportedly killed at least 30 people as it advanced northward. Eyewitnesses say that people were shot to death at the bus terminal in the central Malian town of Sévaré. An army lieutenant made no secret of his hatred for the insurgents, saying: “They were Islamists. We’re killing them. If we don’t they will kill us.”
After the Arab spring and the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, many hoped that terrorism could finally be drawing to a close. But even former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi once predicted that chaos and holy war would erupt if he were toppled. “Bin Laden’s people would take over the country,” Gadhafi said.
Now it is becoming apparent that his prophecy applies to even larger swathes of the desert. The crisis in northern Mali and the ensuing bloodbath at the natural gas plant in Algeria are only two indications. In northern Niger, Islamists are targeting white foreigners, hoping to kidnap them and extort ransom money. In northern Nigeria, fighters with the Islamist sect Boko Haram attacked yet another town last week. They shot and killed 18 people, including a number of hunters who had been selling game there, and then disappeared again. Muslims consider the flesh of bush animals to be impure.
‘One of the Darker Sides’
On Sept. 11 of last year, Islamists murdered US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three embassy employees in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Last Thursday, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands withdrew their citizens from Libya, fearing new attacks.
In Sudan’s embattled Darfur region, militias hired by the Islamist junta were harassing the local population until recently. And in Somalia, Kenyan and Ugandan soldiers are trying to drive back the fundamentalist Al-Shabaab militants.
Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group referred to it as “one of the darker sides of the Arab uprisings,” in a recent conversation with the New York Times. “Their peaceful nature may have damaged al-Qaida and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it’s been a real boon to jihadists.”
Islamism in the Sahel zone is backward and modern at the same time, ideologically rigid and perversely pragmatic. In Timbuktu, fanatics are cutting off the hands and heads of criminals, and yet the Islamists have become wealthy by taking over the cocaine and weapons business, as well as human trafficking operations.
Sahelistan’s new masters are forging alliances with local insurgents and internationally operating jihadists. In Mali, they took over the unrecognized state of Azawad, formed after a Tuareg rebellion in April 2012 — a relatively easy task, after many Tuareg switched sides and joined the ranks of the Islamists. Ansar Dine, the largest Islamist group with its roughly 1,500 fighters, consists largely of Tuareg tribesmen.
After Islamists had captured the Malian city of Gao in June 2012, journalist Malick Aliou Maïga observed delegations of bearded men going to see the new rulers almost daily. “They were supporters from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Qatar. They were bringing money.”
Cynical Political Opportunist
Al-Qaida and its splinter groups in Sahelistan are no longer under the command of a charismatic leader like Osama bin Laden. Instead, they have many commanders, including ruthless fighters like Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is held responsible for the attack at the In Amenas natural gas plant, the largest terrorist incident since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In Mali, there is Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, a cynical political opportunist.
These people pose an enormous threat in West Africa. Neighboring countries like Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have only recently emerged from civil wars and could plunge back into chaos at any time. It stands to reason that members of the West African economic community ECOWAS were the first to join France by deploying troops to Mali, beginning with a contingent of 1,750 soldiers.
General Carter Ham, commander of the US Army’s Africa Command, told the Telegraph that the “growing linkage, network collaboration, organization and synchronization” among the various terrorist groups in the region is what “poses the greatest threat to regional stability and ultimately to Europe.”
Only one border separates Mali’s extremists from the Mediterranean, the 1,376-kilometer border between Mali and Algeria. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 75, still controls Algeria with an iron fist. Nevertheless, Algeria is the birthplace of Salafism in the Maghreb region, the radical Muslim school of thought that many extremist groups, including Al-Qaida, invoke today.
In the late 1980s, the regime permitted the first Islamist party in the region, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). When the FIS seemed headed for victory in the 1991 elections, there was a military coup. The FIS then went underground and fought a brutal war of terror against Algiers that claimed up to 200,000 lives.
The combatants who became radicalized at the time include Abdelmalek Droukdel, born in northern Algeria in 1970. As an adolescent, Droukdel joined the mujahedin and fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Upon his return, Droukdel and others formed the “Salafist Group for Call and Combat,” which is now called “Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM). The group has long since moved beyond its original goal of overthrowing the government in Algiers. Instead, its leaders dream of establishing a caliphate across all of Sahelistan.
Not Particularly Successful
Droukdel’s fiercest adversary is the Algerian intelligence chief, Mohammed Mediène, trained by the KGB in the former Soviet Union. He has headed the fight against the Islamists for years and takes an unrelenting approach that categorically excludes negotiating with terrorists.
Mediène is a difficult partner for the West. He was likely the one responsible for ordering the Algerian army to storm the natural gas plant in the desert in the week before last. Algerian special forces opened fire on the terrorists, despite the risk to the lives of hundreds of hostages. The assault ended in the deaths of about 40 foreign hostages.
In the other countries of the Sahel zone, however, regular military forces tend to be on the losing end against Islamist insurgents. A year ago, the Ansar Dine extremists overran the Malian army within only a few weeks. The troops in the region are all as weak and corrupt as the countries that deploy them. They are poorly equipped and the soldiers suffer from poor morale, partly because the men must often wait months for their pay.
The US is seeking to arm the countries in the region to combat the threat from the desert with a secret US government program called “Creek Sand.” Washington has stationed small aircraft in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and at various other strategically important locations in the region. The Pilatus PC-12 aircraft are unarmed but filled with state-of-the-art surveillance technology. The information they gather as they fly over the desert is meant to help local military leaders in the hunt for terrorists, but the program has not been particularly successful thus far.
Whether brutal military action, such as that which took place in Algeria, will deter Islamists is also disputed. The countries of Sahelistan are among the poorest in the world, and the region is regularly plagued by famine. “A young person from there has no chance of leading a good life,” says deposed Malian President Amadou Touré.
‘You Don’t Even Recognize Them’
The terrorists, on the other hand, are comparatively well off, offering young men a monthly salary of about €90 ($121). Each recruit also receives a Kalashnikov, daily meals and a modicum of power over the rest of the population.
Shortly after recruitment, the new fighters are sent to training camps called Katibas, many of them in northern Mali and along the eastern border with Mauritania. In addition to receiving training with machine guns and hand grenades, the recruits also study the Koran. “You don’t even recognize them when they come back from there,” says a Tuareg tribesman in Bamako.
Experts say that the Islamist fighters in Mali are generally better equipped and better fed than government soldiers. They have rocket-propelled grenades, SA-7 rockets and other modern weaponry. Their main weapons are the poor man’s tanks known as “technicals” — pickup trucks with heavy machine guns mounted on the bed, and bags of ammunition hanging off the sides for the fighters on foot.
After the collapse of the Libyan regime, most of the weapons and ammunition were stolen from Gadhafi’s weapons stores, mostly by the dictator’s former Tuareg mercenaries. Fresh supplies of ordnance aren’t a problem either, now that Africa’s Islamists are hoarding many millions of dollars.
A little over three years ago, Malian police officers made a strange discovery in northern Mali: a Boeing 727, parked in the middle of the desert, without seats but apparently equipped for carrying cargo. It was found that the plane was registered in Guinea-Bissau and had taken off from Venezuela.
The find confirmed the authorities’ fears that South American cocaine cartels are sending large quantities of drugs to West Africa, sometimes using aircraft. Gangs that cooperate with the Islamists then take the drugs to the Mediterranean region. The business is said to have generated billions in profits.
‘Throats Are Slit Like Chickens’
Kidnappings are the Islamists’ second financing mainstay. “Many Western countries pay enormous sums to jihadists,” scoffs Omar Ould Hamaha, an Islamist commander who feels so safe in the western Sahara that he can sometimes even be reached by phone. Experts estimate that AQIM has raked in €100 million in ransom money in recent years.
About half of the kidnappings have ended violently. Boko Haram terrorists murdered a German engineer in northern Nigeria a year ago, and French engineers are often targeted. France depends on Niger for uranium and the state-owned nuclear conglomerate Areva is mining there on a large scale. It’s impossible to completely protect Areva’s employees. Two years ago, kidnappers even ventured into the dusty Nigerien capital Niamey, where they kidnapped two Frenchmen from a restaurant.
For the victims, being kidnapped usually marks the beginning of an ordeal lasting months or even years. To shake off pursuers, the Islamists constantly move their hostages across hundreds of kilometers of desert, either in the beds of their pickup trucks or in marches that can last weeks. Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler titled his book about his time in the hands of extremists “A Season in Hell.”Fowler was released in April 2009, after 130 days in captivity. Ottawa denies having paid ransom money. The Frenchmen kidnapped in Niamey, however, died when a French special forces unit tried to liberate them. “At the slightest sign of an attack, the prisoners throats are slit like chickens,” says Islamist leader Hamaha.
At least seven European hostages are currently waiting somewhere in the desert to be rescued — at least that’s what security forces hope. Islamists have threatened to kill them all, as revenge for the air strikes France has now launched in Mali.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
UNSG Ban Ki-moon, who has difficulty doing business with the permanent missions in New York, finds it much more promissing when he travels to Davos, Switzerland. From Davos the UNSG also Addressed by video the Commemoration of the Holocaust and of Rescuers – those few that refused to denny their own humanity.
Take for instance the problem called Syria that after 60,000 people killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced, during 2011-2012 continuing now in the same way - or a two years of disaster – still does not move the UN Security Council seat-holders to find a way to control the centripetal forces in that Member State.
Arriving to Davos on Thursday morning – to the World Economic Forum – first action of Mr. Ban Ki-moon took was to deliver a special address focusing on Syria and the African Sahel region. The address was noticed by governments, business, and civil society. A unity must be found that allows meaningful action and humanitarian and political efforts must be given security cover. He met the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in this context. He also spoke at a meeting on water resources and connected the events in the North Africa – Middle East MENA States to active effects of drought and Climate Change and people migration that spill over to neighboring States that also suffer from environmental degradation.
On the one end of this arc of destruction – by fighting people and by disaster creating activities elsewhere – Mr. Ban Ki-moon met with the Prime Minister of Lebanon – H.E. Mr. Najib Milkati, and a large group of US Members of Congress from the Republican Party – Messrs. Eric Cantor (Virginia), Jeff Fortenberry (Nebraska), Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida), Darrell Issa (Californis), and Ms Kay Granger (Texas). With this unusual group questions of Human Rights and UN reform were as important as the Middle East Peace Process between Israel and its neighbors, as the unrest in the Sahel region on the other side of the MENA arc of destruction and its neighbors of the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, and West Africa.
Regarding Mali, Mr. Ban warned that the crisis is deepening with repeated reports of sexual violence, child soldiers, and reprisals by the Malian army against Tuareg and Arab populations. The African story repeats itself now also in the Western part of the Sahel. A toxic mix of poverty, extreme climatic conditions, weak institutions, drug smuggling, and the easy availability of weapons, is causing now also in this rather new region the dangerous insecurity we know from the other parts of MENA and its neighboring States.
The UNSG came to Davos in order to tell to whoever will listen that the problems of Mali engulf 18 million people of the Sahel, and if we want to address the problems – the whole set of problems will have to be addressed. Ditto when looking at Darfur and the region stretching into the Horn of Africa.
Mr. Ban took a look also at Egypt and Bahrain and expressed his wishes that these two States do not regress into difficult situations as well.
Regarding Mr. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq misadventure into Kuwait, the UN panel allocated from Iraq funds the equivalent of $1.3 billion as reparations to Kuwait.
While the UNSG was making these presentations to leaders, academics, and business tycoons in Davos, his Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr.Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal presented the Ban Ki-moon video address to the 2013 International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, in the UN General Assembly Hall at the New York City Headquarters of the UN. This year’s Memorial Ceremony was held under the secondary title: “THE COURAGE TO CARE.”
The Holocaust, though a very special event without anything in human history to compare it with, according to Mr. Jan Karski, one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Jerusalem Yad Vashem, for his efforts to inform the World of the extermination of the Jews activities of the Nazis of the German Reich, ought nevertheless be remembered when watching crimes performed in full TV light before our eyes and right in front of us.
Jan Karski was awarded posthumously, by President Obama in 2012, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. and the UN lobby has now an exhibit on display about him as his book “Story of a Secret State” was released this year with details of US inaction while he provided information of what was going on in Europe during WWII. He started out as a Polish Nationalist, but even though faced with the dismemberment of the Polish State – he recognized that what was happening to the Jews was immensely worse.
The US Lobby is displaying as well material about the Holocaust, the extermination machine and the Righteous people who even by saving the life of just one Jew – got themselves the right to be considered as if they saved the whole world. Considering that the UN is ever so often visited by Holocaust deniers, and the UN continuously watching crimes being committed by member States – the event at Headquarters was at least just as important, if not more, as what the UNSG was trying to achieve in Davos.
We bring thus the text of the UNSG video presentation to those assembled at the UN General Assembly Hall on Friday, January 25, 2013.
25 January 2013
Secretary-General, in Memorial Message for Holocaust Victims Day, Hails‘Unsung Heroes’ Who Risked All to Help Targets of Persecution.
The original title was:
VIDEO MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST.
Airing 25 January 2013
It is a great pleasure to greet all the good friends of the United Nations who have gathered for this observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. I welcome in particular the Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who have joined this solemn ceremony.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Courage is a rare and precious commodity. Today, we celebrate those who had the courage to care. Throughout the Second World War, Jews, Roma and Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war and others who failed to conform to Hitler’s perverted ideology of Aryan perfection were systematically murdered in death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.
But some were able to avoid the slaughter. They escaped because a few brave souls risked their lives and their families to rescue Jews and other victims of persecution from almost certain death. Some sheltered the intended victims in their homes; others helped families to obtain safe passage.
Some of the accounts of the rescuers have achieved iconic prominence. But many are known only to those whose lives were saved. This year’s observance is meant to give those unsung heroes the regard they deserve. I thank the Righteous among the Nations Programme at Yad Vashem, which is celebrating its fiftieth year, for identifying and rewarding them. The Holocaust and the United Nations programme has produced an education package on the rescuers that will be used in classrooms around the world.
I also congratulate another crucial partner, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on its twentieth anniversary. Its theme of “Never Again: What You Do Matters” resonates deeply.
Acts of genocide illustrate the depths of evil to which individuals and whole societies can descend. But the examples of the brave men and women we celebrate today also demonstrate the capacity of humankind for remarkable good, even during the darkest of days.
On this International Day, let us remember all the innocent people who lost their lives during the Holocaust. And let us be inspired by those who had the courage to care — the ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to defend human dignity. Their example is as relevant today as ever.
In a world where extremist acts of violence and hatred capture the headlines on an almost daily basis, we must remain ever vigilant. Let us all have the courage to care, so we can build a safer, better world today.
We have read of the death of 23 foreigners and many more Algerians in the fight between Algeria’s secular generals and the Islamist take-over of gas fields in this OPEC-member Nation. Had the industrialized countries made themselves independent of the slavery to the petroleum use in their economies – this would not have happened and, who-knows, perhaps there would not have been an Al-Qaeda either. But, nevertheless, considering the world we live in, and the dependence on oil and gas imported from the Islamic countries that benefits only the ruling few of those countries, all we can afford to do now is applaud the resolute handling of the resultant marauders.
We thus applaud the unilateral decisiveness of the Algerians, the decision of France to bomb in Mali and to lead the West Africans and hopefully some of the Maghreb Arabs as well, while we applaud as well the retreat of the West from Iraq and Afghanistan. This because the West did it all wrong in the above two countries, while Algeria and France did it right this time. With Al-Qaeda you do not negotiate – but you also should not go into a country just because of its oil. Had the US just overthrown Saddam and left the Iraqis handle their own affairs without staying in the country, that would have been fine – but the US went there for the oil, and forgot Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan while thinking only of potential pipelines for Central Asian oil. This created only more Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda clones.
And some of the West’s hadwringing as reported from Bamako, Mali:
Although the Algerian government declared an end to the militants’ siege, the authorities believed that a handful of jihadists were most likely hiding somewhere in the sprawling complex and said that troops were hunting for them.
The details of the desert standoff and the final battle for the plant remained murky on Saturday night — as did information about which hostages died and how — with even the White House suggesting that it was unclear what had happened. In a brief statement released early Saturday night the president said his administration would “remain in close touch with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place.”
The British defense minister, Philip Hammond, called the loss of life “appalling and unacceptable” after reports that up to seven hostages were killed in the final hours of the hostage crisis, and he said that the leaders of the attack would be tracked down. The Algerian government said that 32 militants had been killed since Wednesday, although it cautioned that its casualty counts were provisional.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who appeared with Mr. Hammond at a news conference in London, said he did not yet have reliable information about the fate of the Americans at the facility, although a senior Algerian official said two had been found “safe and sound.”
What little information trickled out was as harrowing as what had come in the days before, when some hostages who had managed to escape told of workers being forced to wear explosives. They also said that there were several summary executions and that some workers had died in the military’s initial rescue attempt.
On Saturday, Algerian officials reported that some bodies found by troops who rushed into the industrial complex were charred beyond recognition, making it difficult to distinguish between the captors and the captured. Two were assumed to be workers because they were handcuffed.
The Algerian government has been relatively silent since the start of the crisis, releasing few details. The Algerian government faced withering international criticism for rushing ahead with its first assault on the militants on Thursday even as governments whose citizens were trapped inside the plant pleaded for more time, fearing that rescue attempts might lead to workers dying. The Algerians responded by saying they had a better understanding of how to handle militants after fighting Islamist insurgents for years.
On Saturday, it was unclear who killed the last hostages. Initial reports from Algerian state news media said that seven workers had been executed during the army’s raid, but the senior government official and another high-level official, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, later said the number killed and the cause were unknown. The early reports also said 11 militants were killed, but later information suggested that some may have blown themselves up.
Whatever the goal, the message of the militant takeover of the gas complex, in a country that has perhaps the world’s toughest record for dealing with terrorists, seemed clear, at least to Algerian officials: the Islamist ministate in northern Mali, now under assault by French and Malian forces, has given a new boost to transnational terrorism. The brigade of some 32 Islamists that took the plant was multinational, Algerian officials said — with only three Algerians in the group.
“We have indications that they originated from northern Mali,” one of the senior officials said. “They want to establish a terrorist state.”
A Mali-based Algerian jihadist with ties to Al Qaeda, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility through spokesmen — and is blamed by the Algerians — for masterminding the raid.
The militants who attacked the plant said it was in retaliation for the French troops sweeping into Mali this month to stop an advance of Islamist rebels south toward the capital, although they later said they had been planning an attack in Algeria for some time. The group that attacked the plant, thought to be based in Gao, Mali, was previously little known and had splintered last year from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda’s North African branch.
The gas plant is operated by Sonatrach, Norway’s Statoil and BP of Britain.
BUT MUCH BETTER REPORTING FROM ISRAEL - Ynet.com
Algerian assault ends crisis, 23 hostages dead
Special forces storm natural gas complex in final assault that ends crisis; 23 hostages, 32 kidnappers killed
News Analysis – The New York Times
The French Way of War
Loic Venance/Agence France-Presse — GettyImages
Soldiers from the French Foreign Legion rehearsing in July for the Bastille Day parade down the Champs-Élysées.
Published on The New York Times on-line: January 19, 2013
Related - Africa Must Take Lead in Mali, France Says (January 20, 2013)
IN 1966, the French president, Charles de Gaulle, war hero and general nuisance in Allied eyes, wrote President Lyndon B. Johnson to announce that France was pulling out of full membership in NATO and would expel NATO headquarters from France.
“France is determined to regain on her whole territory the full exercise of her sovereignty, at present diminished by the permanent presence of allied military elements or by the use which is made of her airspace; to cease her participation in the integrated commands; and no longer to place her forces at the disposal of NATO,” de Gaulle wrote.
After the humiliating capitulation to the Nazis, a tremendous shock to a prideful and martial France, it was not especially surprising that de Gaulle should seek to restore France to a place at the top table of nations, capable of defending its own interests with its own means at its own pace and pleasure.
Even today, as French troops intervene in Mali, the French take pride in their military capacity and in their independence of action. French forces still march every year down the Champs-Élysées on Bastille Day, a military celebration unparalleled in the West. France has nuclear weapons and is the only country, other than the United States, with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. And even as Paris has slowly reconciled itself to full NATO membership, France has maintained its ability to send troops and equipment quickly to large parts of the globe, and it should soon overtake an austerity-minded Britain as the world’s fourth largest military spender, after the United States, China and Russia.
“The French, who are so gloomy and pessimistic about the situation in the country and the economy, have at least one reason to be proud of what their country can achieve,” Jean-David Levitte, the diplomatic adviser to former President Nicolas Sarkozy and the former ambassador to both the United States and the United Nations, told me. “We still have a foreign policy, a capacity to act beyond our borders, a capacity to make a difference.”
France cannot do everything on its own, Mr. Levitte freely acknowledges. “But if you don’t have the military means to act, you don’t have a foreign policy,” he said.
The French are willing to intervene militarily, but on the basis of new conditions, which differ, French officials argue, from the old colonial habits and traditions known as “Françafrique.”
In Mali, as they did in 2011 in Libya and in Ivory Coast, the French have intervened on the basis of a direct request for help from a legitimate government, the support of regional African groupings like the African Union and a resolution from the United Nations Security Council.
Even in Mali, France means to act multilaterally, even if it is leading from the front, as it did in Libya, in the name of saving an ally and helping the Sahel region combat the spread of radical Islamists, some of them foreign jihadists, strongly connected to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
So far, the decisive intervention by the French president, François Hollande, has been popular. A survey published on Wednesday by BVA for Le Parisien found that 75 percent of the French supported Mr. Hollande’s decision to take rapid military action against Islamist rebels in Mali, despite the risks, compared with 66 percent support for intervention in Libya last year and 55 percent for Afghanistan in 2001. An earlier poll on Monday for IFOP found that 63 percent backed Mr. Hollande’s decision.
More striking, perhaps, the consensus among the political elite has been unanimously supportive, says Bruno Tertrais, a defense analyst at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “The French people are ready to support a military operation as long as the objectives are clear and seem legitimate,” he told me. While stopping the Islamist advance on Bamako, Mali’s capital, is such a goal, he went on to say, “if it were a matter of an operation to reconquer the north of Mali, the perception would have been different.”
The French have an all-volunteer military, which distances the population further from the cost of war and makes soldiers “less visible to the populace at large,” notes Sébastien Jakubowski, a sociologist at the University of Lille who studies the army. It has also made the army more popular, with an approval rating of between 80 and 90 percent, he says.
But in another change from the past, the French expect that a decision to use the military will be based on clear moral criteria, Mr. Jakubowski said. And the French take some pride in playing a leading role from a moral foundation, even if French national interests are also at play, pushing other allies to act.
Mr. Jakubowski cited an interview in Le Figaro on Jan. 3 with the American neoconservative historian Robert Kagan, whose study of American and European attitudes toward the use of force, comparing America to Mars and Europe to Venus, was much caricatured but highly influential.
In the interview, and later to me, Mr. Kagan praised the French for their willingness to use force in the pursuit of legitimate goals, even if they may not always have sufficient means to accomplish them. “Nobody asks France to be at the forefront of military interventions, but the willingness of the French to take the initiative is positive,” he said. “I have a new philosophy: If the French are ready to go, we should go.”
But the French also understand that their military limitations are real, and they are far better off acting with others, even if not always with Washington. Paris has been a constant prod to other European countries, and to the European Union itself, to develop better military capacities.
“We think it is absolutely necessary for other European countries to do what we do,” Mr. Levitte said. “Otherwise there will be a kind of strategic irrelevance of Europe as a whole.” It should be obvious, he said, that the United States has other priorities and is concentrating on Asia, and need not act everywhere. “So if we are both independent and true allies of the United States we should be in a position to act when need be.”
Steven Erlanger is the Paris bureau chief of The New York Times.
Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring.
Published, The New York Times on-line: January 19, 2013
WASHINGTON — As the uprising closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi warned that if he fell, chaos and holy war would overtake North Africa. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,” he told reporters. “We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats.”
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2009. His warnings before his 2011 ouster and death sounded melodramatic, but proved prescient as the area has become easier for jihadists to operate in.
In recent days, that unhinged prophecy has acquired a grim new currency. In Mali, French paratroopers arrived this month to battle an advancing force of jihadi fighters who already control an area twice the size of Germany. In Algeria, a one-eyed Islamist bandit organized the brazen takeover of an international gas facility, taking hostages that included more than 40 Americans and Europeans.
Coming just four months after an American ambassador was killed by jihadists in Libya, those assaults have contributed to a sense that North Africa — long a dormant backwater for Al Qaeda — is turning into another zone of dangerous instability, much like Syria, site of an increasingly bloody civil war. The mayhem in this vast desert region has many roots, but it is also a sobering reminder that the euphoric toppling of dictators in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt has come at a price.
“It’s one of the darker sides of the Arab uprisings,” said Robert Malley, the Middle East and North Africa director at the International Crisis Group. “Their peaceful nature may have damaged Al Qaeda and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it’s been a real boon to jihadists.”
The crisis in Mali is not likely to end soon, with the militants ensconcing themselves among local people and digging fortifications. It could also test the fragile new governments of Libya and its neighbors, in a region where any Western military intervention arouses bitter colonial memories and provides a rallying cry for Islamists.
And it comes as world powers struggle with civil war in Syria, where another Arab autocrat is warning about the furies that could be unleashed if he falls.
Even as Obama administration officials vowed to hunt down the hostage-takers in Algeria, they faced the added challenge of a dauntingly complex jihadist landscape across North Africa that belies the easy label of “Al Qaeda,” with multiple factions operating among overlapping ethnic groups, clans and criminal networks.
Efforts to identify and punish those responsible for the attack in Benghazi, Libya, where Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed in September, have bogged down amid similar confusion. The independent review panel investigating the Benghazi attack faulted American spy agencies as failing to understand the region’s “many militias, which are constantly dissolving, splitting apart and reforming.”
Although there have been hints of cross-border alliances among the militants, such links appear to be fleeting. And their targets are often those of opportunity, as they appear to have been in Benghazi and at the gas facility in Algeria.
In the longer term, the Obama administration and many analysts are divided about what kind of threat the explosion of Islamist militancy across North Africa poses to the United States. Some have called for a more active American role, noting that the hostage-taking in Algeria demonstrates how hard it can be to avoid entanglement.
Others warn against too muscular a response. “It puts a transnational framework on top of what is fundamentally a set of local concerns, and we risk making ourselves more of an enemy than we would otherwise be,” said Paul R. Pillar of Georgetown University, a former C.I.A. analyst.
In a sense, both the hostage crisis in Algeria and the battle raging in Mali are consequences of the fall of Colonel Qaddafi in 2011. Like other strongmen in the region, Colonel Qaddafi had mostly kept in check his country’s various ethnic and tribal factions, either by brutally suppressing them or by co-opting them to fight for his government. He acted as a lid, keeping volatile elements repressed. Once that lid was removed, and the borders that had been enforced by powerful governments became more porous, there was greater freedom for various groups — whether rebels, jihadists or criminals — to join up and make common cause.
In Mali, for instance, there are the Tuaregs, a nomadic people ethnically distinct both from Arabs, who make up the nations to the north, and the Africans who inhabit southern Mali and control the national government. They fought for Colonel Qaddafi in Libya, then streamed back across the border after his fall, banding together with Islamist groups to form a far more formidable fighting force. They brought with them heavy weapons and a new determination to overthrow the Malian government, which they had battled off and on for decades in a largely secular struggle for greater autonomy.
Even the Algeria gas field attack — which took place near the Libyan border, and may have involved Libyan fighters — reflects the chaos that has prevailed in Libya for the past two years.
Yet Colonel Qaddafi’s fall was only the tipping point, some analysts say, in a region where chaos has been on the rise for years, and men who fight under the banner of jihad have built up enormous reserves of cash through smuggling and other criminal activities. If the rhetoric of the Islamic militants now fighting across North Africa is about holy war, the reality is often closer to a battle among competing gangsters in a region where government authority has long been paper-thin.
Among those figures, two names stand out: Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the warlord who led the attack on the Algerian gas field, and Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, a leader of Al Qaeda’s North African branch.
“The driving force behind jihadism in the Sahara region is the competition between Abu Zeid and Belmokhtar,” said Jean-Pierre Filiu, a Middle East analyst at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris.
Mr. Belmokhtar has generated millions of dollars for the Qaeda group through the kidnapping of Westerners and the smuggling of tobacco, which earned him one of his nicknames, “Mr. Marlboro.” But Mr. Belmokhtar bridles under authority, and last year his rival forced him out of the organization, Mr. Filiu said.
“Belmokhtar has now retaliated by organizing the Algeria gas field attack, and it is a kind of masterstroke — he has proved his ability,” Mr. Filiu said.
Both men are from Algeria, a breeding ground of Islamic extremism. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as the regional branch is known, originated with Algerian Islamists who fought against their government during the bloody civil conflict of the 1990s in that country.
Algeria’s authoritarian government is now seen as a crucial intermediary by France and other Western countries in dealing with Islamist militants in North Africa. But the Algerians have shown reluctance to become too involved in a broad military campaign that could be very risky for them. International action against the Islamist takeover in northern Mali could push the militants back into southern Algeria, where they started. That would undo years of bloody struggle by Algeria’s military forces, which largely succeeded in pushing the jihadists outside their borders.
The Algerians also have little patience with what they see as Western naïveté about the Arab spring, analysts say.
“Their attitude was, ‘Please don’t intervene in Libya or you will create another Iraq on our border,’ ” said Geoff D. Porter, an Algeria expert and founder of North Africa Risk Consulting, which advises investors in the region. “And then, ‘Please don’t intervene in Mali or you will create a mess on our other border.’ But they were dismissed as nervous Nellies, and now Algeria says to the West: ‘Goddamn it, we told you so.’ ”
Although French military forces are now fighting alongside the Malian Army, plans to retake the lawless zone of northern Mali have for the past year largely focused on training an African fighting force, and trying to peel off some of the more amenable elements among the insurgents with negotiations.
Some in Mali and the West had invested hopes in Iyad Ag Ghali, a Tuareg who leads Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, one of the main Islamist groups. Mr. Ghali, who is said to be opportunistic, was an ideological link between the hard-line Islamists of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the more secular nationalist Tuareg group, known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.
But so far negotiations have led nowhere, leaving the Malian authorities and their Western interlocutors with little to fall back on besides armed force.
David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Cairo, and Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt from Washington.