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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We got interested in the above as we saw last night a UN in Vienna showing of the documentary – “THE SUPREME PRICE” – that was inspired by the actions of Dr. Hufsat Abiola – Costello the daughter of Moshood Abiola and Kudirat Abiola – Olayinki Adeyemi. Both of Hufsat’s parents were executed by military takeover of oil rich but poor Nigeria. Actually – her father was the democratic elected President but never allowed to take over his office, and her mother became an activist and was murdered as she posed a threat to the generals. All this before there was a Boko Haram. As all the riches was in the Niger delta oil fields of the South – it is the endemic poverty of the Muslim Northern region that eventually led to the present upheavals.
As Nigeria approaches new contested elections March 28, 2015 – all of the above will again be front page news with the danger being that the elections will be followed by riots.
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Africa
Neighbors of Nigeria Take On Boko Haram

By ADAM NOSSITER MARCH 9, 2015 – The New York Times

DAKAR, Senegal — Troops from Chad and Niger launched an offensive against Boko Haram militants in neighboring Nigeria, military officials from both countries said Monday, two days after the Islamist terrorist group killed scores in bombings in northeastern Nigeria.

A military official in the Niger border city of Diffa confirmed Monday that two columns of military vehicles carrying soldiers from Niger and Chad had moved into Boko Haram’s stronghold in Nigeria’s Borno State on Sunday, consolidating control over two frontier towns, Damasak and Malam Fatori.

Chad had previously reported that its forces had pushed Boko Haram out of the two towns in mid-February. But Monday was Niger’s turn to do so. Chad’s military spokesman hung up the phone when questioned about the discrepancy, though the spokesman, Col. Azem Bermandoa Agouna, did say that forces from the two neighboring countries were “in coalition” in the regional fight against Boko Haram.
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

African Training Exercise Turns Urgent as Threats GrowMARCH 7, 2015
Boko Haram Generates Uncertainty With Pledge of Allegiance to Islamic StateMARCH 7, 2015
In Newly Sophisticated Boko Haram Videos, Hints of Islamic State Ties FEB. 20, 2015

“The armed forces have launched themselves into the fight to recover the town,” Colonel Azem said Monday from Ndjamena, the Chadian capital, referring to Damasak, a Boko Haram staging post for attacks.
Continue reading the main story
Interactive Graphic: Groups Document Swath of Destruction Left by Boko Haram

Control of the border towns has changed hands several times, and the situation in other remote towns in territory controlled by Boko Haram remains ambiguous. The Nigerian Army, which up until last month had conceded swaths of territory to the Islamist insurgents, is sensitive over the military assistance provided by its smaller neighbors.
Continue reading the main story Video
Play Video|3:51
Boko Haram Kidnapping Tactics, Explained
Boko Haram Kidnapping Tactics, Explained

In Nigeria, more than 200 schoolgirls have been held captive since last April. Some background information on the Islamist group that has been trying to topple the country’s government for years.
Video by Natalia V. Osipova on Publish Date May 9, 2014. Photo by Sunday Alamba/Associated Press.

With a national election scheduled for March 28 and a pledge by military officials to stamp out Boko Haram before the vote, activity by Nigerian forces has intensified, as have efforts by the country’s neighbors, who are worried about the effects of the insurgency on their economies. Boko Haram has increased cross-border raids into Cameroon, Chad and Niger in recent months.

Facing direct engagement from government forces, Boko Haram has reverted to old tactics, bombing so-called soft targets in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. Fifty to 100 people were killed in four bombings over the weekend at two crowded markets in the city.

The attacks were grimly familiar, with women concealing explosives under their hijabs. In one attack on Saturday at Maiduguri’s Monday Market, vigilantes forced a woman whom they suspected of carrying a bomb to the ground, only to be blown up as she detonated it. Nigerian reporters at another attack on Saturday at the Baga Fish Market noted that a number of the victims were children.

Issa Ousseini contributed reporting from Niamey, Niger, and a correspondent for The New York Times from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

A version of this article appears in print on March 10, 2015, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Neighbors of Nigeria Take On Boko Haram

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With elections scheduled for 15 sub-Saharan countries this year, an Africa Check factsheet looks to the polls for leadership in five volatile states.

In addition to presidential polls held in Zambia in January and Lesotho in February, voters are to cast their ballots in Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Mauritius, Sudan, Tanzania and Togo.

South Sudan’s first election since it gained independence in 2011, originally scheduled for June, has been pushed back to 2017 as a result of violence.

Three of the countries heading for elections – Nigeria, Sudan and CAR – were among the bloodiest countries in Africa in 2014. They accounted for almost 50% of the continent’s around 39 000 conflict deaths, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project. It is possible that elections, if they go ahead as planned, may fuel further violence.

In what concerns Nigeria – we found – according to the following quote from The Guardian – ELECTIONS WILL BE HELD MARCH 28, 2015:

“Challenges have beset the election: Jonathan standing for office for a second term has exacerbated perennial north-south tensions and the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) has faced logistical challenges in dispensing voter cards to registered voters and to the roughly one million displaced by Boko Haram attacks.

Security concerns in the northeast of the country have affected polling. In early February, Inec pushed the election back to March 28 owing to the threat posed by Boko Haram, a move criticised by Buhari’s All Progressives Congress. Regional forces have recently made some inroads on the group; they have reclaimed several towns and are planning a major ground and air assault.

Jonathan’s waning popularity as a result of corruption scandals, high unemployment and his lacklustre handling of the Boko Haram crisis would seem to bode well for Buhari, who has extended his support in the south. But with most of his support situated in the north, any cancellation of polling or lack of voter turnout because of Boko Haram threats may affect his chances and call the credibility of the election into question.

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The New York based Council on Foreign Affairs has a longer look at the upcoming elections in Nigeria:


Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Election

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Election – john-campbell-cpm-update-nigerias-2015-presidential-election

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press – Release Date February 2015


The success or failure of democracy, rule of law, and ethnic and religious reconciliation in Nigeria is a bellwether for the entire continent. With a population of more than 177 million evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and most populous country. A 2010 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Contingency Planning Memorandum, “Electoral Violence in Nigeria,” considered the potential for widespread violence associated with Nigeria’s 2011 elections and the limited policy options available to the United States to forestall it. This assessment remains relevant today.

The 2015 elections again may precipitate violence that could destabilize Nigeria, and Washington has even less leverage in Abuja than it did in 2011.

The upcoming elections are a rematch of the 2011 elections between the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan (a southern Christian) and Muhammadu Buhari (a northern Muslim and a former military chief). Tension between Washington and Abuja is higher than in 2011, largely over how to respond to the radical Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram, which is steadily gaining strength in northeast Nigeria. According to CFR’s Nigeria Security Tracker, Boko Haram has been responsible for nearly eleven thousand deaths since May 2011.

Nigerian domestic instability has also increased as a result of the recent global collapse of oil prices, which are hitting the government and political classes hard. Oil constitutes more than 70 percent of Nigeria’s revenue and provides more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange. Since October 2014, the national currency, the naira, has depreciated from 155 to the U.S. dollar to 191.

New Concerns:

Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, political power has alternated between the predominantly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, an informal strategy to forestall the country’s polarization. Jonathan assumed the presidency when President Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim, died in 2010. Jonathan gave private assurances that he would finish Yar’Adua’s term and wait until 2015 to run for president because it was still “the north’s turn.” But Jonathan ran for reelection in 2011, thereby violating the system of power alternation. Following the announcement of Jonathan’s victory, the north made accusations of election rigging. Rioting broke out across the north, resulting in the greatest bloodshed since the 1967–70 civil war.
Geographic Distribution of Votes in 2011 Presidential Election


Geographic Distribution of Votes in 2011 Presidential Election:

The 2015 elections are likely to be more violent. A new opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has nominated Buhari as its presidential candidate. The APC is stronger than its predecessors and reflects a splintering of the political classes. The government’s inability to defeat Boko Haram, the economic hardships brought on by falling oil prices, and a growing public perception that the Jonathan administration is weak have fueled support for the APC. Though the APC’s voter base is in the north, it enjoys support all over the country, unlike the opposition in 2011.

However, any incumbent Nigerian president has significant advantages: he is at the center of extensive patronage networks; he has access to the government’s oil revenue; and he and his party largely control the election machinery and ballot-counting infrastructure. It is uncertain whether any provisions will be made for voters in the three northern states placed under a state of emergency because of Boko Haram, as well as the estimated one million people displaced by the insurgency. These displaced voters would likely support Buhari and the APC; their exclusion would benefit Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Thus despite the strength of the opposition, Jonathan remains the likely—but not certain—winner.
Policy Implications

An unstable Nigeria with internally displaced and refugee populations and a government unable to quell Boko Haram could potentially destabilize neighboring states and compromise U.S. interests in Africa. Yet, the United States has little leverage over Nigerian politics, which is driven by domestic factors, and even less leverage over the Nigerian security services. Nigeria will be disappointed that the United States has not offered greater assistance to counter Boko Haram, and Washington will be frustrated by Abuja’s failure to address human rights abuses by the security service.


Recommendations:

A November 2014 Council Special Report “U.S. Policy to Counter Nigeria’s Boko Haram” recommends long-term steps the United States should take to encourage a Nigerian response to terrorism that advances democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights. In the short term, vocal U.S. support for democracy and human rights both during and after the elections could help discourage violence at the polls and after the results are announced. Secretary of State John Kerry, in a preelection visit to Nigeria, has already underscored the importance of free, fair, and credible elections to the bilateral relationship.

In the aftermath, Washington should avoid commenting prematurely on the quality of the elections. Observers from the National Democratic Institute and the International Republic Institute are likely to issue preliminary assessments immediately after the polls close. So, too, will observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth, and the African Union. There will be media pressure for early, official comment. But, following a close election and the violence likely to follow, the timing and content of official U.S. statements should take into account the views of the vibrant Nigerian human rights community, which will likely be the most accurate.
Washington should forcefully and immediately denounce episodes of violence, including those committed by the security services. But official statements should avoid assessing blame without evidence, and they should take into account the weak ability of party leaders to control crowd behavior.
Washington should facilitate and support humanitarian assistance. The north is already in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, with the prospect of famine looming. If the postelection period is violent, there may be need for international humanitarian assistance in many other parts of the country. The Obama administration should plan for a leadership role in coordinating an international humanitarian relief effort, including a close study of lessons learned from the Africa Military Command’s successful intervention in Liberia’s Ebola crisis.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

 

Monday, 13. Jänner 2014, 7 p.m.

Bruno Kreisky Forum for international Dialogue | Armbrustergasse 15 | 1190 Wien

R.s.v.p: Tel.: 3188260/20 | Fax: 318 82 60/10 | e-mail: einladung.kreiskyforum@kreisky.org

 

THE CRISES IN THE SAHEL REGION AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE FOR EUROPE.

 

Michel Reveyrand de Menthon

EU Special Representative for the Sahel

Günther Barnet

Federal Ministry for Defense and Sports; Head of Africa Policy Department

Moderator:

Georg Lennkh

Member of the Board of the Bruno Kreisky Forum

 For some time now, the European Union has recognized the Sahel Region as an area where security and development are closely interlinked and where the EU can and should play an important role in bringing these two aspects together. The EU had therefore worked out a ‘Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel’ and made this by Council decision an official part of European Common Foreign Policy. With the events in Mali, not even one year ago, this strategy took on a special significance and the EU decided, in March 2013, to nominate Michel Reveyrand de Menthon as EU Special Representative for the Sahel Region.  The key aspect of his mandate is to contribute to the implementation, coordination and further development of the Unions comprehensive approach to the regional crisis, on the basis of its Strategy, with a view to enhancing the overall coherence and effectiveness of Union activities in the Sahel, in particular in Mali.

Although the Sahel region had designated as its primary focus namely Mali, Mauritania and Niger, it was clear that the regional ramifications would extend to the Maghreb and South and East to the adjacent African countries.

The presentation of M. Reveyrand de Menthon will therefore cover a wider geographical area, and will have a particular significance also in view of the very recent intensification of the conflict in the Central African Republic.

For Austria, the topic, and the visit of M. Reveyrand de Menthon has particular relevance because of the participation of a small contingent of troops in the EU Training Mission in Mali.

Karin Mendel
Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue
1190 Vienna, Armbrustergasse 15
Tel:+43-(0)1-3188260
Fax:+43-(0)1-3188260/10
www.kreisky-forum.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Security Council briefing on peace and security in Africa.
Thursday, December 12, 2013

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.
Going forward, the ministers will meet twice each year to calibrate responses to the Sahel’s challenges. Mr. M. Tete Antonio representing the African Union presented the organization’s views.

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.
I condemn all attacks against places of worship and call for reconciliation and accountability.

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.
The lack of positive outside involvement, and an extortive National Governments’ presence, the land is left to marauders and outside trouble-makers who take aim at the larger and richer  countries of the Arab belt of North Africa – Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt. It was through the Sahel that forces fighting the Arab Spring found their way to the North and illegal traffic by those that also control the Sahel made it impossible to do any positive work in the region.

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?

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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

 

 

“does not necessarily require the headquarters of the Office to be located in Rome, or a large share of the staffing of the Office to be located outside the Sahel region. The Advisory Committee …believes that closer proximity to or its placement in the region would allow the Office of the Special Envoy to fully engage and coordinate with the numerous United Nations offices/entities and international actors present in the countries of the Sahel dealing with similar issues.”

 

 

  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?

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 4th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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.
That will eventually be the route to bring Russia to the EU when it becomes clear that you must have one billion people at least in order to have a weight in the global economy in just a few years from now.

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.”
At this meeting, moderated by Marie-Roger Biloa of Cameroon, Producer and Editor of the Paris-based “Africa International” – and having published Development Magazines in Cameroon and Gabon,  held in place, with a strong will, three very different panelists – that included two different aspects of Mali, and the French Ambassador to Vienna – Mr. Stephane Gompertz.

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’AzawadNational 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.
This does not mean the US finds of a sudden France – but rather will not interfere if France wants to look for its own interests and put their money where they talk was for quite some time.

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.
It is easy to get in – it is much more difficult to get out –  and the French Ambassador did not impress us that he really thinks France wants to get out from Mali. Though let me add immediately that Ambassador Gompertz is Professor for classic literature and has a degree in Germanistic – this while in the French Foreign Ministry he was head of the sections on Africa and the Indian Ocean (2009-2012) when he was appointed to Vienna. Before 2008 he was Ambassador to Ethiopia, and with the North Africa and Middle East sections in the ministry – so he is well into the Mediterranean region.

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.

Remarks

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
Washington, DC
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.

 

====================================================================================================

File:Mali regions map.png

 

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.[16] The name translates to “land of transhumance“.[17]

Flag of Azawad  the flag of AZAWAG

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[18] (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad,[18] ArabicDawlat 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[20] (French: République islamique de l’Azawad),[21] the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad[22]), the Republic of Azawad.[23] Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.

Later reports indicated the MNLA had decided to withdraw from the pact with Ansar Dine. In a new statement, dated on 9 June, MNLA uses the name State of Azawad (French: État de l’Azawad).[24]

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.[7][8]

Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence.[12] The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash,[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.

File:Azawad in context.JPG

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

Portal icon Azawad portal

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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43] The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.[44]

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”.[45]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[46] and Gao[47] along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured.[48] 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.[49]

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.[5][50]

In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:

Mali is an anarchic state. Therefore we have gathered a national liberation movement to put in an army capable of securing our land and an executive office capable of forming democratic institutions. We declare the independence of Azawad from this day on.
Moussa Ag Assarid, MLNA spokesman, 6 April 2012[51]

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.[51]

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.[52]

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.[53] The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.[52]

On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state.[9] Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine.[10][11] MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash,[54] 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.[55] Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.[56]

In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.[57]

Religion

Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations.[citation needed] 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.[79]

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.[80]

Most of the 300 Christians who formerly lived in Timbuktu have fled to the South since the rebels captured the town on 2 April 2012.[81][dead link]

Humanitarian situation

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.[82] 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.[83]

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.[84]

History of Azawad
MNLA flag.svg
Gao Empire
Songhai Empire
Pashalik of Timbuktu
French Sudan
Tuareg rebellion (1962–1964)
Tuareg rebellion (1990–1995)
Tuareg rebellion (2007–2009)
Tuareg rebellion (2012)
Independent State of Azawad

 

National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad

from the MNLA point of view:

Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad
Participant in Tuareg rebellions
MNLA emblem.png
Active October 2011 – present
Ideology Secular nationalism[1]
Autonomy
Leaders Bilal Ag Acherif[2] (General Secretary)
Mahmoud Ag Aghaly (President of the political bureau)
Ag Mohamed Najem (head of military operations)
Moussa Ag Acharatoumane
Ibrahim Ag Bahanga
Area of
operations
Azawad/northern Mali
Strength 9000-10000 (MNLA sources)[3]
Part of  Azawad
Allies  Libya (under Jamahiriya)
 Libya (under NTC)
Opponents  Mali (2012)
 Algeria
Ansar Dine (since June 2012)
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa
Battles/wars 2012–present Northern Mali conflict

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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?

  • End of the 'uncatchable': A screengrab shows Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaking at an undisclosed location. Chad said its troops killed the one-eyed Islamist leader in northern Mali on March 1.
  • End of the ‘uncatchable’: A screengrab shows Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaking at an undisclosed location. Chad said its troops killed the one-eyed Islamist leader in northern Mali on March 1. | AFP-JIJI

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.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 31st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

‘Darker Sides’: The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of ‘Sahelistan.’

By Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl and Thilo Thielke

 www.spiegel.de/international/worl…

This article originally appeared in German in issue 5/2013 (January 28, 2013) of DER SPIEGEL and reached us via UNWire.

DER SPIEGEL

Graphic: Where Extremism Reigns

Photo Gallery: Taking Mali's North

Photos
DPA

France is advancing quickly against the Islamists in northern Mali, having already made it to Timbuktu. But the Sahel offers a vast sanctuary for the extremists, complete with training camps, lawlessness and plenty of ways to make money.

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 20th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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 agencies

Latest Update: 01.19.13, 22:34 / Israel News
In a bloody finale, Algerian special forces stormed a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert on Saturday to end a standoff with Islamist extremists that left at least 23 hostages dead and killed all 32 militants involved, the Algerian government said.

With few details emerging from the remote site in eastern Algeria, it was unclear whether anyone was rescued in the final operation, but the number of hostages killed on Saturday – seven – was how many the militants had said that morning they still had. The government described the toll as provisional and some foreigners remain unaccounted for.

Related stories:

The US and British defense chiefs said the hostage crisis in Algeria ended and blamed the militants who seized the natural gas complex, and not Algeria’s government for its rescue operation.

At a joint news conference in London, British Defense Minister Philip Hammond called the loss of life appalling and unacceptable.

“It is the terrorists that bear the sole responsibility,” he told reporters.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said much remains “sketchy” about what happened at the remote Ain Amenas gas field.
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Helicopter over gas plant (Photo: Reuters)
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Freed hostages (Photo: AFP)

“We know that lives have been lost,” he said.

Immediately after the assault, French President Francois Hollande gave his backing to Algeria’s tough tactics, saying they were “the most adapted response to the crisis.”

“There could be no negotiations” with terrorists, the French media quoted him as saying in the central French city of Tulle.

Hollande said the hostages were “shamefully murdered” by their captors, and he linked the event to France’s military operation against al-Qaeda-backed rebels in neighboring Mali. “If there was any need to justify our action against terrorism, we would have here, again, an additional argument,” he said.

In the final assault, the remaining band of militants killed the hostages before 11 of them were in turn cut down by the special forces, Algeria’s state news agency said. The military launched its Saturday assault to prevent a fire started by the extremists from engulfing the complex and blowing it up, the report added.

A total of 685 Algerian and 107 foreigner workers were freed over the course of the four-day standoff, the ministry statement said, adding that the group of militants that attacked the remote Saharan natural gas complex consisted of 32 men of various nationalities, including three Algerians and explosives experts.

The military also said it confiscated heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, missiles and grenades attached to suicide belts.

The Ain Amenas plant is jointly run by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s state-owned oil company. The governments of Norway and Britain said they received confirmation the siege was over.

The entire refinery was mined with explosives and set to blow up, the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach said in a statement, adding that the process of clearing the explosives had begun. The Algerian media reported that the militants had planned to blow up the complex.
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Police near gas plant (Photo: AFP)

The siege transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al-Qaeda stormed the complex, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world.

Algeria’s response to the crisis was typical of the country’s history in confronting terrorists – military action over negotiation – and caused an international outcry from countries worried about their citizens.

Algerian military forces twice assaulted the areas where the hostages were being held with minimal apparent negotiation – first on Thursday and then on Saturday.

=========================================================================

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.

By
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.

By
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.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 15th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Mauritania elected to un rights council

Dec. 11, 2012
National Post of Canada

Monday was Human Rights Day. It was also the day the United Nations chose to elect Mauritania, a country where 800,000 people live as slaves, as vice-president of the Human Rights Council.

Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director, said, “It is obscene for the UN to use the occasion of Human Rights Day, when we commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to elect the world’s worst enabler of slavery to this prestigious post. The UN is making an arsonist head of the fire department.”

According to a recent report by The Guardian, “up to 800,000 people in a nation of 3.5 million remain chattels,”
with power and wealth concentrated among lighter-skinned Moors, “leaving slave-descended darker-skinned Moors
and black Africans on the edges of society.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

As Jeremic (Former Foreign Minister of Serbia) Talks Sovereignty, What of Egypt and Kosovo, Budget from Serbia?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 3 — The UN seems to make even articulate people bland, and to turn everything into buzzwords and cliches. So it seemed at Vuk Jeremic’s first press conference as President of the UN General Assembly.

His deputy spokesman chose only five question — by the end of which, the obvious word “Kosovo” had not once been said.

Only on the seventh and last pre-drinks questions was the word broached. Jeremic answered indirectly, saying that just as he fought “for five and a half years” as Serbian foreign minister for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, now he would fight for those things for the whole world. Is that a message to the proponents of Azawad in Northern Mali? Inner City Press has covered Mali’s on-again, then off-again recognition of Kosovo.


More pertinently, is it true as buzzed at the UN that the “new” Egypt may move to recognize Kosovo? What if anything could a PGA (President of the UN General Asembly) try to do?

Inner City Press covered — and called — Jeremic’s election as General Assembly President, and when the media in Serbia contacted it for stories about Jeremic’s budget, Inner City Press also asked Jeremic’s predecessor how much Qatar had spent (this was never answered).

But now one wants to know if it is true that the request to and contribution of Serbia is down to $1.5 million, and what will be the actual budgets of the office.

Wednesday these questions were not taken, nor more generic ones about mediation and the G-20. Team Jeremic offered drinks and cheese cubes to the correspondents, but that time might have been better spent on answering these questions. Perhaps in the future they will be answered.

———————-

UN Statement Calls for Restraint From Turkey and Syria, SC Prez Tells ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — On the UN Security Council’s press statement on Akcakale in Turkey, what changed in the 22 hours between the silence procedure being broken by Russia and the statement’s read-out by Council President Gert Rosenthal on Thursday evening?

Mostly the inserting of nine final words: “The members of the Security Council called for restraint.”

Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rosenthal, once he had read out the statement, whether it would be fair to read this as a call for restraint by Turkey as well, or just Syria.

“Both,” Rosenthal said. He confirmed that a separate draft press statement on bombings in Aleppo is under the Council’s “silence procedure” until 10 am on Friday. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the press that one Council member had extended silence until then. But would it be further extended?

There were a few other minor changes from the initial Azerbaijani (or “Ottoman”) draft and the one agreed to: the first draft expressed condolences first to the Government of Turkey then to the families of the victims; this was reversed in the final statement. Also a reference to “international peace and security” was removed.

Some drew a link from the negotiations to an upcoming visit to Turkey by Russian president Putin on October 14. Others speculated about some other deal being reached.

In the run-up to the passing, a well placed diplomat told Inner City Press of passing the press statement, “If they can do it to keep Turkey quiet, good.” But will it?

—————–

As France Spins 2-Step on Mali, ECOWAS Frustration, What of Algeria and Chad?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — When Thursday’s Mali consultations of the UN Security Council broken up near 5 pm, French Ambassador Gerard Araud emerged and confirmed that France would circulate a draft resolution shortly (in a day or two) but NOT yet to deploy ECOWAS forces.

Why the delay? Araud twice said, we’ve been waiting for some time for details from ECOWAS. He said the resolution might specify, deliver the delays in 30 days or as soon as possible.

Inner City Press asked Araud, what about Mali neighbors which are not members of ECOWAS, like Mauritania and Algeria?

Araud replied that any and all countries are invited to be involved. He mentioned the European Union, then circled back to Chad.

But again, what about Algeria? The country has long opposed interventions, especially involving former colonialism France. While pretending not to take the lead or play any special role on Mali, it was Araud who came to the stakeout; it is France which is drafting.

Then again, MUJAO in Northern Mali last month executed an Algerian diplomat. Araud said that there is unanimity in the Council on Mali, and afterward Cote d’Ivoire Ambassador Bamba, who was not allowed in the meeting, emphasized to the press that at the Sahel meeting at the UN during General Debate week, there was a strong political demand a resolution authorizing force.

But what about the neighbors, which are not members of ECOWAS?

—————-

At UN, Syria Praises Jeremic as Heavyweight, Critiqus Qatari Ex-PGA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — Syria UN Ambassador Bashir Ja’afari had many duels with Qatar’s Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser while the latter was President of the General Assembly, culminating in UN Television being turned off when Ja’afari spoke.

On October 4, on UNTV, Inner City Press asked Ja’afari about new PGA Vuk Jeremic and about Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. Video here, from Minute 14:09.

Ja’afari lashed out at Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and praised Jeremic as a “heavyweight.” Later it was noted that Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser repeatedly offered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a private jet to travel for free.

Ban has since named Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser as High Representative on the Alliance of Civilizations.

By contrast, Ja’afari told Inner City Press:

“I think the former PGA harmed his personal reputation, the credibility of his country’s policy and the United Nations by misusing his mandate and the very important podium of the General Assembly. I think that he tried to use the national agenda of his country and to dictate this national agenda on the Member States as a whole…

“You may remember the procedural and political mistakes he made towards the point of view of my country as well as toward myself. In these wrongdoing, procedural and political, he crossed the line. He wasn’t diplomat. He didn’t act responsibly.

“In one of these meetings, the former PGA stopped the translation one time, and stopped recording the session, for the first time since 1945. He on many occasion manipulated the rules and procedure of the session and meetings of the General Assembly.

“The new PGA will be by all means different in his approach, his analysis, from former PGA. He is a real heavyweight, a trouble shooter, a professional diplomat… I guess that he will not fall in the same trap in which the former PGA had fallen.

My minister met with the new PGA and they discussed the best ways to help Syria, Government and people, to achieve national dialogue and to implement the Kofi Annan Six Point Plan as well as other instruments adopted by consensus with regard the Syrian crisis. We look forward to working with him very closely.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 25th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Intervention by Wole Soyinka, Member of UNESCO’s International High Panel, at the 2012 Conference on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence, United Nations Hdqrs, New York, Sept. 21 2012

RELIGION AGAINST HUMANITY.

To such a degree has Religion fueled conflict, complicated politics, retarded social development and impaired human relations across the world, that one is often tempted to propose that Religion is innately an enemy of Humanity, if not indeed of itself a crime against Humanity.  Certainly it cannot be denied that Religion has proved again and again a spur, a motivator, and a justification for the commission of some of the most horrifying crimes against humanity, despite its fervent affirmations of peace. Let us however steer away from hyperbolic propositions and simply settle for this moderating  moral imperative: that it is time that the world adopt a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation of – crimes against humanity.

While it should be mandatory that states justify their place as members of a world community by educating their citizens on the entitlement of religion to a place within society, and the obligations of mutual acceptance and respect, it should be deemed unacceptable that the world is held to ransom for the uneducated conduct of a few, and placed in a condition of fear, apprehension, leading to a culture of appeasement.  There are critical issues of human well-being and survival that deserve the undivided attention of leaders all over the world. Let us recall that it is not anti-islamists who have lately desecrated and destroyed – and with such fiendish self-righteousness – the tombs of Moslem saints in Timbuktoo, most notoriously the mausoleum of the Imam Moussa al-Khadin, declared a world heritage under the protection of UNESCO and accorded pride of place in African patrimony . The orientation – backed by declarations – of these violators leaves us with a foreboding that the invaluable library treasures of Timbuktoo may be next.

The truth, alas, is that the science fiction archetype of the mad scientist who craves to dominate the world has been replaced by the mad cleric who can only conceive of the world in his own image, proudly flaunting Bond’s Double-0-7 credentials – Licensed to Kill. The sooner national leaders and genuine religious leaders understand this, and admit that no nation has any lack of its own dangerous loonies, be they known as Ansar-Dine of Mali, or Terry Jones of Florida, the earlier they will turn their attention to real issues truly deserving human priority. These cited clerics and their ilk are descendants of the ancient line of iconoclasts of Islamic, christian and other religious moulds who have destroyed the antecedent spirituality and divine emblems of the African peoples over centuries. Adherents of those African religions, who remain passionately attached to their beliefs, all the way across the Atlantic – in Brazil and across other parts of Latin America – have not taken to wreaking vengeance on their presumed violators in far off lands.

These emulators are still at work on the continent, most devastatingly in Somalia, with my own nation Nigeria catching up with mind-boggling rapidity and intensity. Places of worship are primary targets, followed by institutes of education. Innocent humanity, eking out their miserable livelihood, are being blown to pieces, presumably to relieve them of their misery.  Schools and school pupils are assailed in religion fueled orgies, measured, deliberate and deadly. The hands of the clock of progress and social development have been arrested, then reversed in widening swathes of the Nigerian landscape. As if the resources of the nation were not already stretched to breaking point, they must now also be diverted to anticipating the consequences – as in numerous nations around the world – that would predictably follow the cinematic obscenities of a new entrant into the ranks of religious denigrators, who turns out – irony of ironies – to have originated from the African continent.

In sensible families, while every possible effort is made to smooth the passage of children through life, children are taught to understand that life is not a seamless robe of many splendours, but prone to the possibility of being besmirched by the unexpected, and unpredictable. A solid core of confidence in one’s moral and spiritual choices is thus sufficient to withstand external assaults from sudden and hostile forces. That principle of personality development is every bit as essential as the education that inculcates respect for the belief systems and practices of others. The most intense ethical education, including severe social sanctions, has not eradicated material corruption, exploitation, child defilement and murders in society, not even deterrents such as capital punishment. How then can anyone presume that there shall be no violations of the ideal state of religious tolerance to which we all aspire, or demand that the world stand still, cover its head in sackcloth and ashes, grovel in self-abasement or else prepare itself for earthly pestilence for failure to anticipate the occasional penetration of their self ascribed carapace of inviolability.

It is time to demand a sense of proportion, and realism. Communication advance has made it possible for both good and evil to transcend boundaries virtually at the speed of light, and for the spores of hatred to travel just as fast, and as widely as the seeds of harmony. The world should not continue to acquiesce in the brutal culture of extremism that demands the impossible – control of the conduct of millions in their individual spheres, under different laws, usages, cultures and indeed – degrees of sanity.

What gives hope is the very special capacity of man for dialogue, and that arbiter is foreclosed, or endures interminable postponements as long as one side arrogates to itself the right to respond to a pebble thrown by an infantile hand in Papua New Guinea with attempts to demolish the Rock of Gibraltar. I use the word ‘infantile’ deliberately, because these alleged insults to religion are no different from the infantile scribble we encounter in public toilets, the product of infantilism and retarded development. We have learnt to ignore, and walk away from them. They should not be answered by equally infantile responses that are however incendiary and homicidal in dimension, and largely directed against the innocent, since the originating hand is usually, in any case, beyond reach. With the remorseless march of technology, we shall all be caught in a spiral of reprisals, tailored to wound, to draw virtual blood. The other side responds with real blood and gore, also clotting up the path to rational discourse.   What we are witnesses to in recent times is that such proceeding is being accorded legitimacy on the grounds of religious sensibility. It is pathetic to demand what cannot be guaranteed.  It is futile to attempt to rein in technology: the solution is to use that very technology to correct noxious conceptions in the minds of the perpetrators of abuse, and educate the ignorant.

I speak as one from a nation whose normal diet of economic disparity, corruption, marginalization, ethnic and political cleavages has been further compounded by the ascendancy of religious jingoism.  It is a lamentable retrogression from the nearly forgotten state of harmonious coexistence that I lived and enjoyed as a child. One takes consolation in the fact that some of us did not wait to sound warnings until the plague of religious extremism entered our borders. Our concerns began and were articulated as a concern for others, still at remote distances. Now that the largest black habitation on the globe has joined the club of religious terror under the portentous name, Boko Haram – which means ‘The Book is Taboo’ –  we can morally demand help from others, but we only find them drowning in the rhetoric and rites of anger and/or contrition. Today it is the heritage and humanity of Timbuktoo. And tomorrow? The African continent must take back Mali – not later but – right now.  The cost of further delay will be incalculable, and devastating.

The spiral of reprisals now appears to have been launched, what with the recent news that a French editor has also entered the lists with a fresh album of offensive cartoons. To break that spiral, there must be dialogue of frank, mature minds. Instant, comprehensive solutions do not exist, only the arduous, painstaking path of dialogue, whose multi-textured demands are not beyond the innovative, as opposed to the emotive capacity, of cultured societies.  So let that moving feast of regional dialogues – which was inaugurated by former President Khatami of Iran in these very chambers – be reinforced, emboldened, and even-handed. The destination should be a moratorium, but for this to be strong and enduring, it must be voluntary, based on a will to understanding and mental re-orientation, not on menace, self-righteous indictments and destructive emotionalism. Perhaps we may yet rescue Religion from its ultimate indictment: conscription into the ranks of provable enemies of Humanity.

Wole Soyinka

Sept. 21, 2012, United Nations Hdqrs,  New York.

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WOKE SOYINKA was awarded the The Nobel Prize in Literature 1986.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1986, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1987:

Wole Soyinka Wole Soyinka was born on 13 July 1934 at Abeokuta, near Ibadan in western Nigeria. After preparatory university studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds, where, later, in 1973, he took his doctorate. During the six years spent in England, he was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London 1958-1959. In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller bursary and returned to Nigeria to study African drama. At the same time, he taught drama and literature at various universities in Ibadan, Lagos, and Ife, where, since 1975, he has been professor of comparative literature. In 1960, he founded the theatre group, “The 1960 Masks” and in 1964, the “Orisun Theatre Company”, in which he has produced his own plays and taken part as actor. He has periodically been visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Yale.

During the civil war in Nigeria, Soyinka appealed in an article for cease-fire. For this he was arrested in 1967, accused of conspiring with the Biafra rebels, and was held as a political prisoner for 22 months until 1969. Soyinka has published about 20 works: drama, novels and poetry. He writes in English and his literary language is marked by great scope and richness of words.

As dramatist, Soyinka has been influenced by, among others, the Irish writer, J.M. Synge, but links up with the traditional popular African theatre with its combination of dance, music, and action. He bases his writing on the mythology of his own tribe-the Yoruba-with Ogun, the god of iron and war, at the centre. He wrote his first plays during his time in London, The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel (a light comedy), which were performed at Ibadan in 1958 and 1959 and were published in 1963. Later, satirical comedies are The Trial of Brother Jero (performed in 1960, publ. 1963) with its sequel, Jero’s Metamorphosis (performed 1974, publ. 1973), A Dance of the ForestsKongi’s Harvest (performed 1965, publ. 1967) and Madmen and Specialists (performed 1970, publ. 1971). Among Soyinka’s serious philosophic plays are (apart from “The Swamp Dwellers“) The Strong Breed (performed 1966, publ. 1963), The Road ( 1965) and Death and the King’s Horseman (performed 1976, publ. 1975). In The Bacchae of Euripides (1973), he has rewritten the Bacchae for the African stage and in Opera Wonyosi (performed 1977, publ. 1981), bases himself on John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera and Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. Soyinka’s latest dramatic works are A Play of Giants (1984) and Requiem for a Futurologist (1985).
(performed 1960, publ.1963),
Soyinka has written two novels, The Interpreters (1965), narratively, a complicated work which has been compared to Joyce’s and Faulkner’s, in which six Nigerian intellectuals discuss and interpret their African experiences, and Season of Anomy (1973) which is based on the writer’s thoughts during his imprisonment and confronts the Orpheus and Euridice myth with the mythology of the Yoruba. Purely autobiographical are The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972) and the account of his childhood, Aké ( 1981), in which the parents’ warmth and interest in their son are prominent. Literary essays are collected in, among others, Myth, Literature and the African World (1975).

Soyinka’s poems, which show a close connection to his plays, are collected in Idanre, and Other Poems (1967), Poems from Prison (1969), A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972) the long poem Ogun Abibiman (1976) and Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems (1988).

==========================

Since 1087:

Soyinka has strongly criticized many Nigerian military dictators, especially late General Sanni Abacha, as well as other political tyrannies, including the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Much of his writing has been concerned with “the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it”. During the regime of General Sani Abacha (1993–1998), Soyinka escaped from Nigeria via the “Nadeco Route” on motorcycle. Living abroad, mainly in the United States, he was a professor first at Cornell University and then at Emory University in Atlanta, where in 1996 he was appointed Robert W. Woodruff Professor of the Arts. Abacha proclaimed a death sentence against him “in absentia”. With civilian rule restored to Nigeria in 1999, Soyinka returned to his nation. He has also taught at Oxford, Harvard and Yale.

From 1975 to 1999, he was a Professor of Comparative Literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University, then called the University of Ife. With civilian rule restored in 1999, he was made professor emeritus. Soyinka has been a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In the fall of 2007 he was appointed Professor in Residence at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, US.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 28th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Mali coup: The story so far.

Mali Tuareg and Islamist rebels agree on Islamist state.

 www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-1…  –   BBC – May 27, 2012

map

Two rebel groups that seized northern Mali two months ago have agreed to merge and turn their territory into an Islamist state, both sides say.

The Tuareg MNLA, a secular rebel group, and the Islamist group Ansar Dine signed the deal in the town of Gao, spokespeople said.

Ansar Dine, which has ties to al-Qaeda, has already begun to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in towns such as Timbuktu.

The groups took advantage of a coup in March to seize the territory.

West Africa’s chief mediator for the Mali crisis told the AFP news agency that he hoped the merger would simplify negotiations with the rebels.

Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole also called on both groups to renounce terror.

Mali’s Communications Minister Hamadoun Toure told the BBC that other countries should help Mali tackle al-Qaeda in the region.

‘Accord signed’

Capt Amadou Sanogo seized power in March after claiming the then president, Amadou Toumani Toure, was not doing enough to quash the rebellion.

Faced with mounting international pressure and sanctions, he was forced to step down only three weeks later, but is still thought to wield power behind the scenes.

“It is true that an accord has been signed,” Col Bouna Ag Attayoub, a MNLA commander in Timbuktu, told the BBC. “The Islamic Republic of Azawad is now an independent sovereign state.”

Previously, the MNLA had remained secular, resisting Ansar Dine’s efforts to impose Islamic law in towns. Meanwhile, Ansar Dine had rejected the MNLA’s call for an independent state.

Residents said there was celebratory gunfire in Gao and Timbuktu after the agreement.

More than 300,000 people have fled northern Mali since the rebels took the territory in the days following the coup.

Regional bloc Ecowas has said it is preparing to send 3,000 troops to Mali to help the country reclaim its northern territory, but no date has been set for the force to arrive.

Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, is receiving medical tests in France after being beaten unconscious by protesters who supported the coup.

It is thought that soldiers allowed the demonstrators into Mr Traore’s office, which is next to the presidential palace. Ecowas has warned of sanctions if the military are found to be involved.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 11th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) says it has a membership of 57 States on four continents with a total population of 1.3 billion people. Having seen its map we realize it has also at least three “blocked States” – India, Thailand, and The Philippines  though it has the Moro National Liberation Front as an observer State, a withdrawn State – Zimbabwe, and at least one non-State – Israel that was replaced by Palestine as a member State. Cote d’Ivoire was the last member to enter – it joined in 2001. Russia became an Observer in 2005.

Afghanistan was suspended during the years of Soviet occupation 1980 – March 1989 and Egypt, the fifth largest Islamic population, was suspended May 1979 – March 1984 when it tried for peace in the Middle East.

The organisation attempts to be the collective voice of the Muslim world (Ummah) and the official languages of the organisation are ArabicEnglish, and French.

The flag of the OIC has an overall green background (symbolic of Islam). In the centre, there is an upward-facing red crescent enveloped in a white disc. On the disc the words “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “The Almighty God”) are written in Arabic calligraphy.

 

The OIC attracted attention at the opening session of the meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on 16 October 2003, where Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad of Malaysia in his speech argued that the Jews control the world: “They invented socialismcommunismhuman rights, and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power.” He also said that “the Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” The speech was very well received by the delegates, including many high ranking politicians, who responded with standing ovations.”

India, a country that has 161 million Muslim, only Indonesia with 203 million and Pakistan with 174 million have larger Muslim populations then India, was not welcome even as an observer to OIC – this because of its conflict with Pakistan where India would like to have a referendum of the local population as a means to decide the future of Kashmir.

Most OIC member countries are non-democratic. There are no OIC countries which are rated as a “Full Democracy” under the Democracy Index guidelines, and only 3 of the 57 members are rated as high as a “Flawed Democracy.” The rest are rated either an “Authoritarian Regime” or a “Hybrid Regime.”

Only 3 OIC member states were rated as Free in the Freedom in the World report in 2010 based on Political Rights and Civil Liberties in the member countries.

Reporters Without Borders in its 2011 Press Freedom Index rated only Mali and Suriname among the OIC members as having a Satisfactory Situation. All other members had worse ratings ranging from Noticeable Problems to Very Serious Situation.

Freedom of religion is severely restricted in most OIC member states. In 2009, the US Department of State cited OIC members Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan as being Countries of Particular Concern, where religious freedom is severely violated.

On August 5, 1990, 45 foreign ministers of the OIC adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam to serve as a guidance for the member states in the matters of human rights in as much as they are compatible with the Sharia, or Quranic Law  www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/cai… )

OIC created the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. While proponents claim it is not an alternative to the UDHR, but rather complementary, Article 24 states, “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah.” and Article 25 follows that with “The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.” Attempts to have it adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council have met increasing criticism, because of its contradiction of the UDHR, including from liberal Muslim groups.  Critics of the CDHR state bluntly that it is “manipulation and hypocrisy,” “designed to dilute, if not altogether eliminate, civil and political rights protected by international law” and attempts to “circumvent these principles [of freedom and equality].”

Human Rights Watch says that OIC has “fought doggedly” and successfully within the United Nations Human Rights Council to shield states from criticism, except when it comes to criticism of Israel. For example, when independent experts reported violations of human rights in the 2006 Lebanon War, “state after state from the OIC took the floor to denounce the experts for daring to look beyond Israeli violations to discuss Hezbollah’s as well.” OIC demands that the council “should work cooperatively with abusive governments rather than condemn them.” HRW responds that this works only with those who are willing to cooperate; others exploit the passivity.

The OIC has been criticised for diverting its activities solely on Muslim minorities within majority non-Muslim countries but putting a taboo on the plight, the treatment of ethnic minorities within Muslim-majority countries, such as the oppression of the Kurds in Syria, the Ahwaz inIran, the Hazars in Afghanistan, the Baluchis in Pakistan, the ‘Al-Akhdam‘ in Yemen, or the Berbers in Algeria.

The formation of the OIC happened shortly after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Leaders of Muslim nations met in Rabat to establish the OIC on September 25, 1969.

OIC is run out of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, its first Secretary General was Tunku Abdul Ramman of Malaysia (1971-1973) and its current Secretary General, since 2005, is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of Turkey.

 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisatio…

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Muslim_population

We found the following map of substantial interest for understanding if there is a realistic chance for change in the Arab world and in the Islamic world at large.

Much of the attention of observers of UN debates on terrorism was on how Contradictions between OIC’s and other U.N. member’s understanding of terrorism has stymied efforts at the U.N. to produce a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. The world must be reassured that new leaderships of Islamic States will not equivocate on terrorism – whatever true sentiments they may harbor – it is important to agree that terrorism is not an acceptable tool for attainment of political goals.

 upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/OIC_map.png

The list of OIC Member States: Afghanistan · Albania · Algeria · Azerbaijan · Bahrain · Bangladesh · Benin · Burkina Faso · Brunei ·

 Cameroon · Chad · Comoros · Côted’ Ivoire · Djibouti · Egypt · Gabon · Gambia · Guinea · 
Guinea Bissau · Guyana · Indonesia · Iran · Iraq ·
 Jordan · Kuwait ·Kazakhstan · Kyrgyzstan · Lebanon · Libya · 

Maldives · Malaysia · Mali · Mauritania · Morocco · Mozambique · Niger · Nigeria ·Oman · Pakistan · 

Palestine · Qatar · Saudi Arabia · Senegal · SierraLeone ·

 Somalia · Sudan · Suriname · Syria · Tajikistan ·Turkey · Tunisia · Togo · Turkmenistan · Uganda · 

Uzbekistan · United Arab Emirates · Yemen

The Observers are: Bosnia and Herzegovina · Central African Republic · Russia · Thailand · Northern Cyprus (asTurkish Cypriot State), Moro National Liberation Front, Russia.



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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

RECEIVED FROM: Editeur : RIAED | Réseau international d’accès aux énergies durables
www.riaed.net/portail

from RIAED | Réseau international d’accès aux énergies durables
reply-to dufail@gret.org
date Mon, Jul 19, 2010
subject: La lettre d’information du RIAED, n°41

THIS IS THE INFORMATION No. 41 from RIAED WHICH IS THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK FOR ACCESS TO SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FOR THE FRENCH SPEAKING COUNTRIES OF WEST AFRICA, BUT THEY HAVE ALSO A LINK TO THE ENGLISH FORM OF THIS LETTER. THE POSTING IS INTERESTING AS IT SHOWS LOTS OF ACTIVITIES THAT GO ON IN THE REGION SINCE 2006 AND CONTINUE TO DATE.

Voici la lettre d’information du site RIAED | Réseau international d’accès aux énergies durables.

A la Une

Un inventaire des opportunités de réduction d’émissions de GES en Afrique subsaharienne

Un rapport de la Banque mondiale détaille, sur 44 pays d’Afrique subsaharienne, les opportunités de réduction d’émissions de gaz à effet de serre dans 22 domaines. Au travers de l’approche MDP, cette étude a pour objectif d’explorer le potentiel offert par les projets énergétiques à faible contenu en carbone qui peuvent contribuer au développement de l’Afrique subsaharienne. Dans ce but, l’équipe de réalisation de l’étude a identifié les technologies pour lesquelles il existe déjà des méthodologies MDP et qui ont déjà donné lieu à projets MDP dans d’autres régions en voie de développement.

Actualités

Liberia : deux firmes américaines financent la construction d’une centrale hydroélectrique Les firmes Buchanan Renewable Energies (BRE) et Overseas Private Investment Company (OPIC) basées aux États-Unis, ont déboursé 150 millions de dollars pour la construction d’une centrale hydro-électrique à Kakata, dans la région de Margibi (environ 45 kilomètres de la capitale Monrovia).

Maroc : lancement du plus grand parc éolien en Afrique Le Maroc a lancé le 28 juin 2010, au nord du pays, le plus grand parc éolien en Afrique, pour une enveloppe de 2,75 milliards de dirhams (400 millions de dollars) soit une des étapes – clés du Programme marocain intégré de l’énergie éolienne, qui table sur un investissement d’environ 31,5 milliards de dirhams (4 milliards de dollars).

Cap Vert : la CEDEAO ouvre un centre des énergies renouvelables La Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique d l’Ouest (CEDEAO) a ouvert un nouveau centre pour les énergies renouvelable (ECREEE) aux Iles du Cap Vert pour développer le potentiel de la région en énergies renouvelables.

Côte d’Ivoire : l’état relance le barrage de Soubré Dans le cadre des mesures annoncées pour palier aux difficultés dans le secteur de l’énergie électrique, l’état ivoirien va relancer le projet de construction du barrage hydroélectrique de Soubré.

Malawi : un projet de biogaz mène à d’autres services Une unité de production de biogaz de petite échelle au Malawi, récemment créée dans le but d’atténuer le changement climatique, peut également, si elle est bien exploitée, améliorer la sécurité alimentaire et les moyens de subsistance dans les régions rurales du Malawi.

Afrique sub-saharienne : les meilleurs produits d’éclairage hors réseau gagnent le soutien de Lighting AfricaCinq produits innovants ont été sélectionnés lors de la conférence de Lighting Africa et du commerce équitable à Nairobi en mai dernier.

Bénin : projet d’amélioration de l’acccès à l’énergie moderne Le Gouvernement de la République du Bénin a obtenu un crédit auprès de l’Association Internationale de Développement (IDA) d’un montant équivalant à quarante sept millions cinq cent mille Droits de Tirages Spéciaux (47 500 000 DTS) soit soixante dix millions de dollars US (70 000 000 USD) pour financer le Projet de Développement de l’Accès à l’énergie Moderne (DAEM).

Afrique de l’Est : Les micro-entrepreneurs font leurs entrées dans le marché de l’énergie, à temps pour la coupe du monde Un groupe de 20 micro-entrepreneurs originaires de Ranen, un marché local de l’ouest de Kenya, sont les premiers entrepreneurs DEEP formés et mis en relation avec les institutions financières pour obtenir des facilités de crédits et développer leurs affaires dans le secteur énergétique.

L’Égypte compte ouvrir sa première centrale à énergie solaire fin 2010 L’Égypte compte mettre en service sa première centrale électrique à énergie solaire d’ici la fin de l’année 2010, a indiqué lundi 14 juin 2010 le ministère égyptien de l’Énergie.

Accord entre le Pool d’énergie ouest-africain et la BEI Le président de la BEI (Banque Européenne d’Investissement) se félicite de la seconde révision de l’Accord de Cotonou et signe avec le Pool d’énergie ouest-africain un accord d’assistance technique en faveur d’un projet dans le secteur libérien de l’énergie.

Colloques, conférences, rencontres, forum…

France : Forum EURAFRIC 2010 La 10ème édition du Forum EURAFRIC « Eau et Énergie en Afrique » se tiendra du 18 au 21 octobre 2010 au Centre des Congrès de Lyon (France).(29/06/2010)

Sénégal : salon ENERBATIM 2011 La deuxième édition du Salon International des Energies Renouvelables et du Bâtiment ENERBATIM en Afrique se tiendra du 6 au 9 avril 2011 au CICES (Dakar).

Tunisie : Congrès international sur les Énergies Renouvelables et l’Environnement Ce congrès aura lieu du 4 au 6 novembre 2010 à Sousse (Tunisie).

Algérie : salon international des énergies renouvelables ERA 2010 Le Salon international des énergies renouvelables, des énergies propres et du développement durable, se tiendra les 19, 20 et 21 octobre 2010 à Tamanrasset (Algérie).

Afrique du Sud : forum Hydropower Africa 2010 Ce forum sur l’hydroélectricité en Afrique aura lieu du 16 au 20 août 2010 à Johannesburg (Afrique du Sud)

Ressources

Derniers documents (études, applications…) proposés en libre téléchargement :

La revue de Proparco – n°6 – mai 2010 Cette revue bimestrielle n°6 de Proparco (groupe AFD) a pour thème : « Capital-investissement et énergies propres : catalyser les financements dans les pays émergents »

Les petits systèmes PV font la différence dans les pays en développement La coopération technique allemande (GTZ), a publié une étude qui fait le point sur l’impact des petites installations photovoltaïques sur le processus d’électrification rurale hors réseau, dans les pays en développement.

L’électricité au cœur des défis africains Manuel sur l’électrification en Afrique – Auteur Christine Heuraux

Interactions bioénergie et sécurité alimentaire Ce document de la FAO fournit un cadre quantitatif et qualitatif pour analyser l’interaction entre la bioénergie et la sécurité alimentaire.

Blogues du Riaed

Petit site dédié à un projet, une rencontre, une institution… Vous pouvez présenter vos connaissances et proposer des ressources en libre téléchargement.

Accès aux blogues hébergés par le Riaed : www.riaed.net/spip.php?rubrique41

Annuaire du Riaed

Inscrivez vous en qualité d’expert, ou inscrivez votre entreprise / institution / projet, etc. dans l’annuaire du Riaed pour être facilement identifiable et joignable. Vous le ferez en ligne, en quelques minutes, à la page www.riaed.net/spip.php?breve6. Vous pouvez aussi le faire en adhérant au réseau du Riaed, en qualité de membre, à la page www.riaed.net/spip.php?breve11 et en précisant à la fin votre souhait d’être aussi présenté publiquement dans l’annuaire (cocher la case ad hoc).

ASAPE ASAPE ou Association de solidarité et d’appui pour l’environnement

Burkina énergies et technologies appropriées (BETA) BETA est une entreprise solidaire qui a fait le choix de s’investir dans la promotion de l’accès à l’énergie en milieu rural.

Opportunités de financement de projets

EuropeAid – Facilité Énergie n°39 – Newsletter de juin 2010 Ce numéro de la lettre de la Facilité Énergie de la Commission Européenne nous fournit les statistiques sur l’évaluation des notes succinctes.

Formation, stages, partenariat, bourse d’échanges

Maroc : formation continue « La pérennisation des systèmes énergétiques décentralisés » L’objectif de cette session est la formation d’un groupe de techniciens impliqués dans les aspects techniques et socio-économiques de l’introduction de l’énergie solaire photovoltaïque dans l’électrification des zones rurales et isolées.

Burkina Faso : formation continue « Développer son expertise pour économiser l’énergie dans les bâtiments climatisés » L’IEPF et 2iE ont développé une formule qui comprend non seulement la formation proprement dite, mais également le suivi des bénéficiaires de cette formation (en particulier les entreprises industrielles), avec un engagement de leur part à mettre en oeuvre les recommandations des audits, en finançant tout ou partie des coûts.

Sites francophones sur l’énergie

Une liste de sites francophones et de réseaux sur l’énergie est proposée à la page www.riaed.net/spip.php?rubrique=34

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(Autres liens et réseaux)

THAT IS – THE SIMILAR TEXT IN ENGLISH FROM THE FRENCH SPEAKING COUNTRIES OF AFRICA SEEMS TO BE AVAILABLE AT:

Une liste de sites anglophones et de réseaux internationaux sur l’énergie est proposée à la page www.riaed.net/spip.php?rubrique=35

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THE BLOGGS LINK IS THE FOLLOWING BUT IT SEEMS  OLD: www.riaed.net/spip.php?rubrique41

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EYE ON THE UN: For Immediate Release – May 26, 2008 – The US Memorial Day.

Contact: Anne Bayefsky
(917) 488-1558
 anne at hudsonny.org

UN Racism Conference to be held in Geneva April 20-24, 2009 – Ironically over Holocaust Remembrance Day.

May 26, 2008

The next UN racism conference – known as Durban II or the Durban Review Conference – will be held on UN premises in Geneva from April 20-24, 2009, a UN preparatory committee decided today.

Anne Bayefsky, editor of EYEontheUN.org, said “holding the meeting at a UN venue on European soil will essentially guarantee funding from the UN regular budget for the conference, and that the European Union will fully participate and not follow boycott plans of Canada, the United States and Israel.”

The European Union had been insisting on a shorter session in New York, but the African Group refused to agree on the New York venue and wanted a 5-day conference. The idea floated by some states of again holding the conference in Durban, South Africa fell through when South Africa withdrew its offer to host the event. Throughout negotiations the African group was tightly controlled by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, with Egypt acting as their spokesperson.

Bayefsky noted “Ironically, the Durban Review Conference will take place over Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah on April 21, 2009.

Jews all over the world will be remembering the 6 million murdered in the worst instance of racism and xenophobia in human history.

At the same time, the United Nations will be discussing whether the Jewish state, created in the wake of the Holocaust and standing as a bulwark to ensure it is never repeated, should be demonized as the worst practitioner of racism and xenophobia among nations today.”

Durban II is intended to promote the implementation of the 2001 Durban Declaration, which singled out only Israel and labeled Palestinians as victims of Israeli racism.

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For once South Africa showed the courage to stand up and be counted among the Nations – the rest of Africa – we must note – is nothing but a rug at the feet of the Islamic world – Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibuti, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Marocco … all countries were black Africans suffer from the Egyptian led OIC intrusions on their continent. The UN is just a conduit for making the world pay the bill.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 29th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Let Us Look Closely At Some Of The UN DAILY NEWS from the UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE
28 April, 2008 =========================================================================
Analyzing the news we find that now even the UN makes clear prediction that climate change in Africa is bound to become a security problem with the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal among the first that must address this inevitable danger. All these countries belong to the Arabized Africa.

But Mr. Ziegler of the UN “Right to Food” Program just shoots his mouth at the US and at the EU for trying to decrease their dependence on imported oil by emulating the great Brazilian experience with biofuels. Rather then being helpful, Mr. Ziegler calls for a moratorium that could only benefit his Arab friends.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon visits now the economic offices of the UN in Vienna and Geneva, and speaks up about the real World needs. He will then meet high level UN officials from Economic and Human Rights offices. He will also meet the foreign ministers of Austria and Slovenia, and the President of Switzerland. Our main attention is drawn to this last meeting and we think that the best reason for his trip could come true if he were to negotiate with the Swiss President’s removing Mr. Ziegler from his UN related functions, as he did enough damage by now. Also, perhaps, if needed, Switzerland could take over from South Africa the hosting of that Durban II event. By bringing the hotheads of that planned disaster to their senses, Switzerland could have the chance to redeem itself from all these other problems that its citizen, Ziegler, managed to create on the world stage. We really do not want to see that the Swiss flag will remain stained for any further length of time.

Further, While in Vienna, in his meetings there, Mr. Ban could obtain further information about farm policy and biofuels. The Austrians were very good at that. When “Gemma Brott Verbrennen” was the anti-ethanol call that was all over the frontpage of the daily “Kurrier” – the Austrians moved to the production of biodiesel made from oil of the ricinus plant in order to avoid the Food-for-fuel misrepresentation of the European agriculture. The Slovenians think in this respect like the Austrians.

UN TO ASSIST AFRICAN FARMERS THREATENED BY CLIMATE CHANGE

Some 10,000 farmers in five African countries, where crops are expected to be badly affected by climate change, are to receive help from the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the form of low-cost rain gauge equipment and roving seminars provided by agricultural experts.

With the help of Spain, WMO will distribute the rain gauges to volunteer farmers in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, and train them in using rainfall data to plan sowing, fertilizer application and harvesting.

The goal of the roving seminars is to support farmers’ self-reliance by supplying them with information on weather and climate risk management.

In West Africa, the area suitable for agriculture, the length of the growing season, and crop yields, especially along the margins of arid and semi-arid areas, are all expected to decrease, according to projections by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In some African countries, yield from rain-fed farming could be reduced by up to 50 per cent by 2020.

The assistance plan was announced on Friday after a meeting in Niamey, Niger, which was organized by WMO and the State Meteorological Agency of Spain.

* * *

BIOFUEL PRODUCTION IS ‘CRIMINAL PATH’ LEADING TO GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS – UN EXPERT

The United States and the European Union have taken a “criminal path” by contributing to an explosive rise in global food prices through using food crops to produce biofuels, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

Speaking at a press conference today in Geneva, Jean Ziegler said that fuel policies pursued by the US and the EU were one of the main causes of the current worldwide food crisis. Mr. Ziegler said that last year the US used a third of its corn crop to create biofuels, while the European Union is planning to have 10 per cent of its petrol supplied by biofuels. The Special Rapporteur has called for a five-year moratorium on the production of biofuels.

Mr. Ziegler also said that speculation on international markets was behind 30 per cent of the increase in food prices. He said that companies such as Cargill, which controls a quarter of all cereal production, have enormous power over the market. He added that hedge funds are also making huge profits from raw materials markets, and called for new financial regulations to prevent such speculation.

The Special Rapporteur warned of worsening food riots and a “horrifying” increase in deaths by starvation before reforms could take effect. Mr. Ziegler was speaking before a meeting today in Bern, Switzerland, between Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of key UN agencies.

Meanwhile, speaking in Rome today, a nutritionist with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), said that “global price rises mean that food is literally being taken out of the mouths of hungry children whose parents can no longer afford to feed them.”

Andrew Thorne-Lyman said that even temporarily depriving children of the nutrients they need to grow and thrive can leave permanent scars in terms of stunting their physical growth and intellectual potential. He said that families in the developing world are “finding their buying power has been slashed by food price rises, meaning that they can buy less food or food which isn’t as nutritious.”

* * *

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN CHAIRS MEETING OF TOP OFFICIALS FROM ACROSS THE UN

The current global food crisis triggered by soaring prices, the safety and security of United Nations personnel and climate change dominated talks today involving Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior officials from the world body.

The topics were discussed at the spring session of the Chief Executives Board, which brings together the heads of the world body’s various entities for regular meetings, in Bern, the Swiss capital, where Mr. Ban is on an official visit.

At a panel in Vienna last Friday, the Secretary-General stressed the urgency of tackling the food issue, noting that it is “very closely interlinked with development issues, climate change, food prices, our fight against disease and other equally important areas.”

He noted that the food crisis has hurt the world’s poorest and pushed 100 million people further into poverty, impeding the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight targets to slash a host of social ills by 2015.

“This has been a global challenge, so we need to address it in a collective way – globally,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to a forum entitled “The United Nations and the European Union: Joining Forces for the Challenges of the 21st Century.”

Also participating in the events were Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik of Austria and Dimitrij Rupel, Foreign Minister of Slovenia, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

Speaking to reporters in Vienna, the Secretary-General said that as a short-run response to the food crises, all humanitarian crises must be addressed.

“In the longer term, the international community, particularly the leaders of the international community, should sit down together on an urgent basis and address how we can, first of all, improve these economic systems, distributions systems, as well as how we can promote the improved production of agricultural products,” he added.

Later today, Mr. Ban is scheduled to meet with Pascal Couchepin, the President of Switzerland.

* * *

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 25th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We wondered that the only material in Arabic that we found on the tables at the Session on Climate Change – the 7th Session of The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – was from Israel.

Now we found two Tuaregue delegates who gave us material in French dealing with incidents of August 26th, 2007 at Gougaram, Niger; November 23rd, 2007, Tchintabizguine, Niger; and April 10th, 2008, Kidal , Mali – where Tuaregs were killed by the more Arabized Niger and Mali authorities. This is an issue of human rights raised by the tribes that are closer to the original inhabitants – the indigenous   people – in those two African States.

Will their problem be looked at before it reaches Darfurian dimensions?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

In 2001, in response to the world leaders’ request, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presented the Road Map Towards the Implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, an integrated and comprehensive overview of the situation, outlining potential strategies for action designed to meet the goals and commitments of the Millennium Declaration.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world’s main development challenges. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.

The 8 MDGs break down into 18 quantifiable targets that are measured by 48 indicators. Click here for a full list of Goals, Targets and Indicators

  • Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
  • Goal 5: Improve maternal health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

The MDGs:

synthesize, in a single package, many of the most important commitments made separately at the international conferences and summits of the 1990s;

recognize explicitly the interdependence between growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development;
acknowledge that development rests on the foundations of democratic governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights and peace and security;

are based on time-bound and measurable targets accompanied by indicators for monitoring progress; and
bring together, in the eighth Goal, the responsibilities of developing countries with those of developed countries, founded on a global partnership endorsed at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002, and again at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002.

So, we are now in March 2008, more then halfway into the timing of the period alloted for achieving the MDGs, and one wonders if we did not get lost on that Roadway.

The new Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, convened September 14, 2007 his First Africa MDG Steering Group, and now, today, March 10, 2008 was the Second meeting of the group – all this so a new – High -Level meeting be set up for September 25, 2008 – this before the start on next UN General Assembly meeting.

Today, after a half day of meetings at which participated also Professor Jeffrey Sachs of the Columbia University Earth Institute, the participants came out to meet the UN Press. The Media Advisory follows:

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Following is how the UN DAILY NEWS of March 10, 2008, from the UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE Summarized this:

URGENT ACTION CRUCIAL FOR AFRICA TO MEET ITS DEVELOPMENT TARGETS – BAN KI-MOON.

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged scaled-up action – including raising agricultural productivity across Africa – so that the continent can meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015.

This year could be “the year of opportunity for the ‘Bottom Billion,” Mr. Ban told reporters after chairing the second meeting of the so-called MDG Africa Steering Group in New York. “Tremendous gains are possible if the international community translates commitment to deliverables.”

He pointed to examples of achievements made, such as Malawi’s lowering of child mortality rates, Senegal’s accomplishments in enhancing its water and sanitation facilities and Tanzania’s improvements in primary education. “The challenge is now to replicate these successes in more countries,” he observed.

Today’s meeting identified several key programmes that need to be implemented by African nations, with assistance from the international community, in the near future, including launching an African “Green Revolution” to speed up economic growth and tackle hunger; controlling infectious diseases by providing comprehensive AIDS treatment by 2010 and bringing malaria mortality rates close to zero by 2012; and ensuring emergency obstetric care for all women by 2015.

The Secretary-General noted that there are several pressing challenges, especially that of rising food prices. It is essential to raise the productivity of farmers while also mobilizing resources to combat malnutrition and hunger, he said, adding that $500 million is required to meet the “most urgent needs.”

He voiced hope that the Group’s recommendations would spur action on the part of world leaders and encourage them to focus on specific steps that need to be agreed upon to reach development targets.

“We see a lot of leadership from African governments on these issues, and we are committed to working with them to support the design and implementation of country-led strategies and programmes,” he said.

Mr. Ban noted that on 25 September, he and the General Assembly President will convene a high-level meeting on the MDGs bringing together world leaders, civil society and the private sector. He voiced hope that this upcoming gathering will “make a real difference in bridging the implementation gap.”

Speaking to the press after the meeting, the Secretary-General also highlighted the role of the “digital divide,” noting the possibility that African countries lacking information technology capacity may “lag behind more and more.”

The MDG Africa Steering Group was set up last September after data showed that despite faster growth and strengthened institutions, Africa remains off-track to meeting the targets.”

The actual video tape – webcast of the Press Conference is here:

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[Webcast: Archived Video English: 54 minutes ]
[Webcast: Archived Video Original Language: 54 minutes ]

The Press was seated in the first three rows of the large room. UN Security was at the door and said this is for Press only. Nevertheless there were many people that were not from the press in the rows beyond the first three rows. Who were they and how did they get in? The UN Secretary-General made a short presentation, and then the floor was opened for the press to ask questions. Turned out that there was time only for 10 questions, and UN Spokesperson Michelle Montas was careful to allow only questions on Development in Africa, though one political question about Myanmar managed to sneak in. We find limiting the questions to development in Africa appropriate, so pure political issues are kept out – but then there might be a problem with the interpretation of what is a development question – and this could become a way for the UN to keep out non-complimentary questions.

On the front row on the podium sat:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon;

Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank;

Alpha Oumar Konaré, Chairman of the African Union Commission;

Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid at the European Commission;

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund;

Mohammed Ennifar, Senior Advisor, at the Islamic Development Bank;

Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development;

Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank.

Behind them was a line of specialists, that included Professor Sachs, and functionaries.

The questions were answered mainly by the UNSG, and by Mr. Konare, Messrs. Louis Michel, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Angel Gurria and Robert Zoellick Participated each in answering one question only. Messrs. Kaberuka and Ennifar did not participate at all.

The Secretary-General said that “we identified our target – we have to integrate Africa in the global economy.” To get there he called for intensifying trade negotiations. He called for a new Green Revolution in Africa and this was not just a question of seeds – it is rather developing markets, enhance use of fertilizers and open up the developed countries to African products. There is a possibility here to have African food suppliers that provide to other African countries. These are ideas that Professor Jeffrey Sachs was working on for years. Eventually, as an answer to the last question, Mr. Zoelick said that at a time that food prices are high – that is exactly the right time to stop agricultural subsidies and this will in effect decrease the price of food because of the possibility now to produce for better market condition and this will nevertheless also help reduce the price of food even in the developed countries.

John Helprin from AP wanted to know which of the MDGs is most off-track and got from the UNSG the answer that they are all off-track – we need more aid and more participation by the countries themselves.

A correspondent from Africa asked in French Mr. Konare, who was the President of Mali for two five-year terms (1992 to 2002), and Chairperson of the African Union, about fighting poverty while so much is spent on the conflicts. He said that Africa must acquire the means to take action by themselves. “You need an institutional approach – resolve conflict on the basis of law.” To another question about China’s involvement in Africa he said that this is good only in the short term. Africa needs investments. Everybody goes to China for money and China could be a new major partner – and we welcome this full heartedly – but actually they come for raw materials and leave the rest unchanged. Konare said “we are at half time now (on the way to 2015)” we need investments now – but he added also that “we want all partnerships on the basis of democratic values.”

Tuyet Nguyen, from German Press, wanted to know about China exploiting Sudan oil, got from Mr. Konare the answr that China in Sudan is a complicated case.

Rhonda wanted to know about South Korea’s development and how to take this experience to Africa. This obviously played to the hands of the Secretary-General who said that Africa is lagging in information technology and this is very serious. In Korea, in the 70’s and 80’s, there was self help in villages to transform them into modern villages – village leaders competing among themselves. This the Koreans introduced to Rwanda, and Mr. Ban said that in the morning Konare said that the people need self respect. Mr. Guria said that with the Partnership for Democratic Government there will be a ministerial meeting on the internet economy.

Matthew Russell Lee asked about the billion dollars spent in Sudan and the DRC and if the AU is happy the way contracts are allocated – but rather then writing about the exchange with Mr. Konare, we will rather post here how Mr. Lee saw these answers. And here one can see that Mr. Konare welcomes the UN investigative press – and would it not be nice had the UN more of it! Let us already say here also that we felt, Mr. Konare was indeed the star of the event, and a question that asked him how he feels about his time as head of the AU, as he will be leaving the helm, – was he successful in his leadership – allowed him to give his clear analysis that not everything is fine.

Press to Expose UN’s Scandals, African Union’s Konare Says, As EC Inquires into Lockheed Deals

By Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press.

UNITED NATIONS, March 10 — “The press is doing its work, to denounce the scandals,” African Union chairman Alpha Oumar Konare intoned Monday, speaking beside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about development in Africa. Inner City Press asked if the African Union was satisfied with the way the UN chooses the beneficiaries of its multi-million dollar peacekeeping contracts in Africa, in light of recent exposure of no-bid contracts to Lockheed Martin and Request for Proposals tweaking for France. In response, Chairman Konare called for “good governance and transparency, because states are looking at this with particular attention today.” (Video see, from Minute 43:47.)

This attention was made clear following the press conference, when European Commissioner Louis Michel sought out Inner City Press to note that the UN’s contracting process is the subject of pending questions in the European Parliament. “You are right,” he said, “there is a problem.” He added, by contrast to the UN’s December 31, 2007 no-bid $12 million contract with Lockheed Martin to feed the peacekeepers in Darfur that the European Union buys locally. “There will be a debate on this,” he said.

Under the heading “Concern over cases of corruption at the United Nations,” Spain’s Emilio Menendez del Valle in Written Question E-0342/08 has asked “why it is worrying to learn (though also encouraging, since the problem is being confronted) that the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS)” is “currently investigating, at the request of the General Assembly, a matter of special interest to the European Union… the award, without a tender procedure, of a USD 250 million contract to the US company Lockheed Martin to construct five bases in that region.” He asks,” is the Council not concerned at the course of events described above?” According to Louis Michel, the answer is yes: concern is growing.

Ironically, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson tried to cut off the question about the UN’s own spending in Africa, saying that it did not relate to development. Not only did Chairman Konare respond with a three minute response congratulating the press for exposing the scandal, also Mr. Ban raised his hand to offer the UN’s perspective on the procurement and transparency issued. But Mr. Ban was not called on. Next time, then.

Was above a notion that UN DPI does not let even the UNSG have his say? Watch the tape and find the answer!

Also, look at the tape to search if you hear anywhere words like SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, GLOBAL WARMING, CLIMATE CHANGE spoken? I did not find a trace.

Did it occur to anyone that you will never achieve MDGs if you do not go by terms of SUSTAINABILITY? Are These Words To Be Discussed Separately From The Subject Of Development? This even at a time that the UNSG is now on record that much of the conflict in Africa has to do with environmental changes that came about because of climate change. Does not Development in Africa also have to address adaptation to climate change conditions that came about from lack of more serious mitigation efforts elsewhere? Did we not hear at other UN events about funding methods that come from a global approach to climate change? Should this not have been included in questions from the press? Was there anyone in that room, among the people of the press, that could have pulled into the discussion Professor Jeffrey Sachs who is known to have strong opinions in this area also?

Let us say – an unfinished agenda and indeed at half-time – an agenda that does not advance with promissing speed. Going now to the September 25, 2008 new – one day High-Level meeting – called for by the UNSG and the President of the UNGA – it seems that the there has to be some further cross-fertilization between the “develop Africa” track and the “global climate change” track – linked through the threads of Sustainable Development of Africa and of the rest of the world as well.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 23rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

GATES FOUNDATION AND UN JOIN FORCES TO MECHANIZE WOMEN’S WORK IN French Speaking WEST AFRICA (Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal) – says a UN Press Release.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said today it had joined forces with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in an effort to empower rural West African women with diesel engines, and, in doing so, boost their incomes.

The centrepiece of the project is a diesel-run engine mounted on a chassis, called a multifunctional platform, or MFP, to which a variety of processing equipment can be attached, including a cereal mill, husker, battery charger, and joinery and carpentry equipment, according to a UNDP press release.

The MFP takes domestic tasks such as milling and husking sorghum, millet, maize and other grains, normally done with a mortar and pestle or a grinding stone, and mechanises them, making them profitable economic activities.

The machine, which the project will distribute in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal, can also generate electricity for lighting, refrigeration and water pumps.

“By investing in this simple power source for rural communities, women no longer need to spend all their time grinding grains or pumping water,” UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said as he announced the initiative in Dakar, Senegal. “They have more hours in the day to develop profitable activities that could boost their productivity, enabling them to sell better quality products and increase their income using low-cost, effective technology,” he added.

A $19 million, four-year grant from the Gates Foundation will help establish 600 new sustainable, rural agro-enterprises based on the machine in West Africa, with at least 24 of the MFPs to be biofuel-based, according to UNDP.

As part of the enterprise projects, UNDP and its extensive network of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will back the women’s groups with literacy and management training and support.

The benefits of the MFP have already been proven in parts of West Africa, the agency said. In Senegal, S. Sakho of Batantinty explained that before the platform was introduced in her village she rarely earned more than 25,000 CFA ($55) from processing and selling shea butter from nuts.

“With the platform I easily earn 100,000 CFA ($220) at the end of the harvest,” Mrs Sakho said. The yield is high because the time is there. The platform has improved my life. I spend the earnings for the children’s education and clothing; I no longer look like a peasant,” she said.

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We have seen models of the MFPs at UN Commission for Sustainable Development events in the UN basement. Those days the accent was on improving conditions in rural areas of poor countries, and pushed by the Tata Affiliated Institute from India, this was to be done by supplying oil products – diesel, kerosene and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to those on these programs. We thought then that this was nothing less then an attempt to increase the market for oil by making the rural poor, who were not yet buyers of petroleum products, get also into the addiction to an oil economy. We, obviously were skeptical at that time. Now it seems UNDP is ready to move on with the times and think of biofuels. This is progress indeed. We hope that the Tata folks can drop their – “we are different – we have have other priorities for development for the poor” – rhetoric.  www.SustainabiliTank.info comment)

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