Wednesday, May 20, 2015
IS SOUTH AFRICA READY
TO HANDLE SUCH RESPONSIBILITY
ESKOM, the South African power supplier, earlier announced their intention to build six new nuclear power plants. Tenders for the construction of these plants should be going out by the end of 2015 already.
In a recent audit done by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the AEA found South Africa’s nuclear preparedness deficient in more than 40% of its assessment criteria.
This strongly indicates that South Africa is simply not ready to expand its nuclear capability and or safety at the present moment.
Echoing these findings are a series of reports from the World Association of Nuclear Operators, which found the capacity of management and staff at the Koeberg nuclear plant to be sub-optimal. Eskom’s current financial and management crises is further impacting negatively on the long-term nuclear safety at SA’s sole nuclear power station.
This is to say nothing of the capacity constraints being experienced at the National Nuclear Regulator – a body that lacks the requisite skill to oversee any new building program.
South Africa’s nuclear planning and development is currently in the hands of a government that knows very little, if anything, about nuclear science and technology.
This lack of proper understanding together with the destructive power of nuclear energy makes for a very volatile combination that can only result in a major catastrophe.
Maintaining a nuclear power plant is something completely different to maintaining a conventional power station.
On April 26, 1986 the world witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in modern history when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant melted down in the Ukraine.
The disaster released at least 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the fatal effects of this disaster are still being felt today.
Nuclear rain from the disaster fell as far away as Ireland while 800,000 men risked their lives exposing themselves to radiation in order to contain the situation.
25,000 of these men have died since and 70,000 are permanently disabled.
If Eskom’s track record, since 1994, is anything to go by, this ambitious plan of the South African Government is a disaster just waiting to happen.
The truth is simple. South Africa is simply not ready to take on such a responsibility or to expand its nuclear capability at this stage. .
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
ESKOM IS POWERLESS, IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
The situation at Eskom is a farce mixed with tragedy
Stes de Necker
Article by Stephen Grootes
Stephen Grootes is the senior political correspondent for Eyewitness News and the host of the Midday Report on Talk Radio 702 and 567 CapeTalk.
Stephen Grootes says as South Africa emerges from another dark weekend to the chaos of load-shedding traffic, one would think that the country’s best minds were focused on making sure the one project underway that could bring this to an end was progressing well.
They would be wrong.
Instead, Eskom, contractors, and NUMSA are all having a huge fight over who is right and who is wrong at the Medupi power station construction site. The now six-week long strike there is surely the single biggest example of our broken politics, and of the failure of our state to actually manage anything. And there are no signs at all that the situation will get better.
That Eskom does not have enough power to keep all of our lights on at the same time is pretty self-evident. Just last week I found myself editing sound of Brian Molefe’s Eyewitness News interview by the light of a solar-jar.
The scale of the problem is massive; load shedding has gone from a stage one, occasional occurrence, to stage two, regular darkness. And while at one point it seemed that it would stop in winter, because the maintenance underway now would get the power stations in good nick for the colder months, that no longer seems to be the case.
Meanwhile, there has now been no construction at Medupi, apart from at unit six, since 25 March. The origins of the conflict lie in a protest march by workers there: 1,000 of those workers were fired, and the other 17,000 (yes, that’s right, 17,000) have refused to return to work until the 1,000 that were fired are allowed back. In the meantime, this dispute is littered with the usual intimidation, violence and denials that mark our strikes.
It seems intolerable that this is so. This means we will have another six weeks of load shedding. Eskom is very quick to point out that 18 months – a full year and a half’s worth of construction time – have been lost at Medupi through industrial action alone.
It will come as no surprise to most to learn that the main union at Medupi, namely the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) (the very same union that has been kicked out of Cosatu) is planning a new workers’ party, and is what you could call ‘hard left’.
This is the same union that has organised Gautrain bus drivers to go on strike during rush hours, in pursuit of a one-hour paid lunch break (whichever manager at Gautrain allowed NUMSA in to organise this is probably going to lose their job).
On the face of it, all that Numsa is really demanding is more money. In reality, they are most likely using this to try to make a name for themselves. There can surely be no answer to the claim that they are simply holding the entire country to ransom.
We need the power – Eskom knows that – and it won’t be long before someone, somewhere, just caves in and gives them the money they’re asking for.
In public, Eskom says this is a dispute between contractors and workers, but Eskom is really the organisation in charge here.
There are several issues at play. The first is the question of whether Numsa is really doing this for political ends, or whether it is it about weakening the ANC government, generally showing that it cannot actually keep the lights on or control just about anything. Numsa will deny this strongly; their claim is that “workers’ rights are human rights” (although all rights are limited under our system) and that this is simply a normal workplace dispute.
If it is playing politics, it’s a very dangerous game for Numsa.
At the moment, as an organisation, it is defending its base, namely the workers who belong to it.
But if it is to become a political party, it has to reach out beyond that base. In this case, defending the base constituency is a huge risk. Come elections, with load shedding still a daily occurrence, the ANC now has a new person to blame in Numsa.
You can imagine President Jacob Zuma’s line: first it was apartheid that created this problem, then when we tried to fix it, it was Numsa that stopped us.
It doesn’t have to be true, it just has to be politically plausible.
For Numsa ever to succeed as a party, it may have to make a compromise for its base. It’s a tough line to tread, but then, that’s the game they’ve decided to play.
Then there is the question of how Eskom has managed to allow this project to be so delayed in the first place.
It’s the result of their mistakes all the way along the line with this project that has allowed one union literally to dictate how much electricity is available to the nation. Surely, surely, instability at the top of Eskom, largely because of political interference, is to blame.
The mess around CEOs, the fact that Brian Molefe now has to be referred to as the “current acting CEO” because there is in fact another “suspended CEO”; the fact that there is an “acting chair”, all of it points to this production as a farce mixed with tragedy.
In the meantime, there is another, bigger problem looming on the horizon.
All of last week was marked by violent protests in Orlando in Soweto, over a plan by Eskom to install pre-paid electricity meters. Eskom, we know, is running out of money.
We know also that this is largely because not enough people are paying enough money for the power they use.
As a result, Eskom is now trying to ensure that people pay for power properly, and do this before using it, because of all the chaos and confusion that paying for it afterwards can cause.
It surely has to be accepted that in the provision of power, as in all else, there is no such thing as a free lunch. But residents there refuse to accept that; they basically want power for free.
They won’t say that, of course; it’s cloaked in other claims – that the meters over-charge, or are too expensive, but in the end, it comes down to the same thing.
This surely is a political problem that is going to require huge effort to solve. But no effort is being made. There are no presidential visits to Orlando to explain the situation, no ANC leaders going there to ask why power must be free; instead, Eskom is left on its own.
In fact, when there is a power cut in Soweto, as there was on Friday, the City of Johannesburg, ever mindful of next year’s elections, suddenly condemns the power cut.
They didn’t do that when middle-class Craighall Park was plunged into darkness two nights last week.
The amount of money owed by Soweto residents to Eskom is thought to be around R8 billion. That’s a huge amount of money, more than is owed by the defaulting municipalities.
Surely, if Soweto doesn’t pay, Eskom cannot function. It is that simple.
If ever we needed a united national effort to fix something, it is our power crisis.
If ever we needed anything to be front of mind, at the top of every politician’s speech, at the very forefront of the national agenda, it is surely this. And yet, everywhere, leaders seem to just ignore it.
Instead of being united in action, everyone is united in just not caring.
Maybe they’ll care when the darkness becomes almost permanent.
Or maybe they won’t.
This article first appeared on Daily Maverick.
THE ANC vs. ESKOM AND TELKOM
How the ANC government wrecked two essential utilities
Stes de Necker
Article by Jan Vermeulen - May 12, 2015
Repeated blunders in the government’s management of Eskom and Telkom have resulted in major energy and telecommunications problems for South Africa.
Rolling blackouts have become a common occurrence, with Eskom implementing load shedding on almost a daily basis to manage the demand on the country’s power grid.
This is set to continue for the foreseeable future, as the beleaguered utility takes generating units at power stations offline to perform planned maintenance, while “unscheduled maintenance” from breakdowns places additional pressure on the grid.
Telkom, on the other hand, has been upstaged by mobile networks like Vodacom and MTN, and has struggled to offer fixed-line broadband prices that compare with international standards.
Considering Telkom and Eskom are struggling, it is interesting that both their predicaments began with poor decision making by the government.
Failed privatisation, liberalisation
How the Government failed SA broadband users
These decisions by the ANC government seem uncharacteristic of an organisation with socialist roots, as they involved privatising the utilities and introducing competition over time.
In 1997, the government sold a 30% stake in Telkom to an international group called Thintana, which was 60% owned by SBC (now AT&T), with the remaining 40% belonging to Malaysia Telekom.
The sale signalled the start of the government’s “managed liberalisation” plan for South Africa’s telecommunications sector.
This “managed liberalisation” began with Telkom enjoying a state-sanctioned monopoly until 2002, and a de facto monopoly on fixed-line telecoms until Neotel’s launch in 2006.
During Telkom’s exclusivity period between 1997 and 2002, little was done to modernise the company’s infrastructure, with the major shareholders (Thintana and the government), along with former CEO Sizwe Nxasana content to “sweat its assets”.
Interestingly, Telkom launched its first ADSL Services, a few months after its state-sanctioned monopoly ended.
It is also worth noting that in 2006, when then-CEO Papi Moletsane said Telkom would invest billions in renewing its infrastructure, its share price fell by 7% the same day.
Eskom Power Plants from 1926 to 2015
Eskom faced a similar challenge, with the government preventing the utility from building any major power plants until 2004.
By then it was already too late. The Department of Minerals and Energy warned in 1998 that a decision about building additional capacity had to be made by 1999 to ensure that Eskom stayed ahead of demand come 2007.
The reason for the delay was that the government wanted to open up the energy market to competition from the private sector.
As with Telkom, all the necessary regulations weren't put in place to fully liberalise the market – and still aren't.
While network service providers managed to win the right to “self-provision” their own networks by taking the government to court, the unbundling of Telkom’s so-called “local loop” or last-mile copper infrastructure still hasn't happened.
Similarly, the Bill meant to open Eskom’s grid to independent power producers is reportedly still with President Jacob Zuma, awaiting his signature.
Between sweating the assets of Eskom and Telkom, and failing to implement regulations to truly liberalise the telecommunications and energy sectors, the government has wrecked two of South Africa’s essential utilities.
Telkom has started to turn the ship around with the roll-out of its next-generation network, but not in time to stave off major staff cuts.
Eskom has two new power stations underway, but construction has been marred by numerous delays and labour action.
Monday, May 11, 2015
ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME
Stes de Necker
(Johnny Cirruci - Illuminate Unmasked)
In a book by Johnny Cirruci he exposes the Illuminate Conspiracy in detail. He explains the “One World Order” conspiracy from its inception in Babylon through to its near completion, today.
- How the Illuminate have co-opted the United States at every level of government.
- Barack Obama’s shocking ties to this Mystery Religion—and it’s not Islam.
- How American politics have been rigged and who has the power to control every level of your government.
- All of America’s external threats —illegal immigration, pandemics, terrorism—orchestrated by the same people.
- Who was really behind 9/11 and how they have far worse planned.
- How America’s top leaders from both Parties bow to this secret power. The worst days in America can all be traced back to them.
- How American Patriots have been framed and murdered by them and assassination is their specialty.
Hidden history uncovered!
Johnny is a career soldier who has served in the Marine Corps, the Army and the National Guard.
America has been infiltrated by emissaries of the anti-Christ, the Whore who wields the power of Mystery Babylon, since her inception.
In his book, Johnny Cirruci writes about how the Illuminati have repeatedly weakened, attacked and subverted what made America great—the brilliance of her Constitution and the moral, disciplined Protestant Work Ethic of her stout Middle Class—at every turn.
The whore has used assassination, psychological operations, murder, mayhem and disinformation.
She has co-opted every single foundation of power in America: every critical political position, the judiciary, the media, entertainment, the military, banking and (worst of all) America’s treasonous, out-of-control Intelligence apparatus.
The Carroll family gave America the lie of “religious tolerance” that has killed their culture and they instituted the epicenter of Papal control over Washington DC—Jesuit Georgetown University.
The Surratt family were the Catholic assassins behind the Lincoln assassination, the Dulles family were behind the importation of Nazism to the U.S., the quagmires of Cuba and Vietnam and the vicious slaughter and broad-daylight coup of the Kennedy assassination.
Communism was a curse invented by the Jesuits via their “Reduction” settlements in South America.
They chose as their puppet German Jew Karl Marx while under their care in Trier. They used it to wage war against their hated enemies, the Romanovs, who had evicted the Jesuits in 1820. A Jesuit priest by the name of Losif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili was chosen from Georgia to turn Russia into a totalitarian nightmare. He would later change his name to Joseph Stalin.
They have carefully played both Russians and Americans against each other ever since, cashing in (literally) on the resulting bloodshed. They used their infiltrators and subversives in America to counter the Nazi-given technological advances with self-destructive leadership and policy decisions (e.g. Kennedy threatened resolution to Vietnam and was eliminated).
The Soviet Union collapsed, but rather than allow a new climate of peace and co-operation to ensue, tremendous discord has been instilled.
Organs like the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have been used to increase the “Strategy of Containment” dreamed up by Papal agents like Zbigniew Brzezinski—thought by Russian Intelligence to have been behind the election of Polish Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła to the Papacy to become “Pope John Paul II”.
A literal Crusade continues to target Orthodox Russia on her very doorstep utilizing a CIA/Nazi/Catholic influence in Slavic Ukraine, the birthplace of both nations.
The Orthodox Church is heavily infiltrated with Jesuits and Jesuit agents like “Brother Nathanael”.
It is the Left Leg of the terrible statue the Prophet Daniel saw in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, with Rome being the Right Leg. It is almost as hampered by humanistic and pagan religious traditions as Rome is. But through it, a mighty thing has happened; the good Russian people are living their Christian values and this does not sit well with the Luciferian Elite that runs and rules the West (through the Vatican).
As the media pretends to inform you of the “debate” whether or not the traitors in the United States government should fuel the conflagration in Ukraine by supplying weapons, uniformed American soldiers are already there in Ukraine. They are slyly labelled as “advisers” lest any American citizen become outraged over their military becoming needlessly involved in a conflict that will only harm them.
As they poured in, Colonel Hordiychuk, officer of the Main Command Center of the General Staff of Ukraine, was there to greet them as the “Head of the Ukrainian International Military Cooperation Department”.
At the Battle of Savur-Mohyla, Hordiychuk received a grievous wound to the back of his head during a mortar attack.
According to a web site promoting Hordiychuk as a great hero of the Crusade against Russia in Ukraine, regular Russian paratroopers followed the indirect fire. Somehow, they failed to live up to their reputation for eating babies and raping the livestock, and humanely handed this extremely valuable prisoner back over to the Ukrainian military (but only because they believed he wasn't going to make it).
Colonel Hordiychuk was immediately taken to a Ukrainian hospital where he was personally decorated by Chocolate mogul and billionaire oligarch, President Petro Poroshenko who, according to an official U.S. cable released by Wikileaks, was a Washington “inside man” at least since 2006.
Apparently, Colonel Hordiychuk needed more extensive care and no expense was spared by the new Jesuit Pope’s puppet government in America.
Hordiychuk was taken directly to Walter Reed, in Mary-land (the Catholic colony insinuated through George Calvert, Lord Baltimore).
There he was met by the Pope’s new, Republican-approved Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter.
Friday, May 8, 2015
STUDENT LEADERS OR POLITICAL CLOWNS - PROFESSOR JONATHAN JANSEN - RECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE FREE STATE, SOUTH AFRICA
STUDENT LEADERS OR POLITICAL CLOWNS
Stes de Necker
PROFESSOR JONATHAN JANSEN - RECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE FREE STATE, SOUTH AFRICA
‘They cannot reason or sustain an argument. They find it difficult to hold a position on a sensitive subject without becoming angry’
07 MAY 2015
IN South Africa, politics is not simply lived or experienced; it is performed.
It is a form of street theater in which clowns mount a platform and entertain an audience hungry for any distraction from that daily grind called life. Disruptions in parliament are planned for optimal media coverage; and we long for it as the media prime us for the coming showdown as if it were a contest between boxing heavyweights — Julius Malema versus Baleka Mbete, for example.
The more outrageous you are, the more laughs you draw.
A student leader boasts that he admires Hitler; the young ignoramus knows he will become the centre of attention for weeks to come. He also knows there will be hundreds of supporters for this outrageous statement, including those who tell us to “understand” what he is saying; that his words were taken “out of context”; and that one can admire the mass murderer‘s “effectiveness” without condoning the racist killings of millions of human beings.
What should demand moral clarity and condemnation without qualification suddenly becomes a yes-but debate among many. When the heartless young man is rightly disciplined by the university, he does the next best thing — blames “Zionist” forces.
“Lucifer is a historical figure,” shouted one student from the floor in response to a debate on campus symbolism, “but that does not mean he should have a statue in the church.”
The laughs were predictable and the audience thoroughly enjoyed that one, as the speaker intended. In the process, historical figures some disagree with are equated with the devil. Instantly, a complex debate is trivialized for the benefit of public theater.
By some miracle of timing, the media are conveniently on hand to see another student pour human waste on the offending statue of Cecil John Rhodes. What follows is far scarier as the same performer tells a media man, “I don‘t have to justify anything to a white man or a white institution.”
Here the shameless presentation of the race card is held up as an excuse to avoid making an argument.
Students broke into and disrupted a meeting of the council of that university while dancing on tables in front of some of the elders of the anti-apartheid struggle, including the chairman, who was imprisoned on Robben Island so that these performers could be born into the freedom we enjoy today. The messages were clear — the time to talk was over and any public engagement on the issue was over-rationalization.
This is what concerns me about our universities today —places of higher learning are being reduced to episodic bursts of street theater performance, and by that I do not mean the drama department. Instead of rational debates we have public spectacle. On many campuses a student march comes with the familiar retinue of singing and dancing but also class disruptions, racial insults, physical confrontation, damage to property, and worse.
Most worrying of all, our campuses have become places that mimic rather than challenge the broader public culture of incivility and disdain.
Having taught young people in different parts of the world, this is my most striking observation about South African students — their inarticulateness in public. They cannot reason or sustain an argument.
They find it difficult to hold a position on a sensitive subject without becoming angry. They find their confidence not in the satisfaction of a powerful argument but in the applause of the similarly shallow. When university authorities yield not to argument but to anger, they unwittingly reinforce this anti-intellectual and non-progressive student behavior on their campuses.
University leaders have a solemn duty to listen to students and to learn from them. We must take our cue from their deepest desires for recognition and inclusion in the life of a university. When we do not listen to students in peace time, university authorities will remain on the back foot in times of crisis.
That is the most important lesson from the campus upheavals of recent times.
But we also have the solemn responsibility to teach them. To model through our leadership what a university is really about. We should insist on public argument and reasoned debate. We should direct students to readings that enable them to craft powerful arguments from the literature of post-colonialism to the debates on critical race theory, to use singular examples.
What is at stake is the future of our country; the students are, after all, the replacement leadership in which we place our hope.
This article first appeared in The Times
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
What the Meriam Ibrahim case can tell us about the state of Islam
Stes de Necker
Author Hasan bin Talal.
The tragic story of Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year-old woman sentenced to death for apostasy in Khartoum, where she is being held with her 20-month-old son, has shocked and saddened millions of rational, moral and empathic people around the world. Along with other leaders from the international community, I have written personally to the president of Sudan seeking Ibrahim's release and am very hopeful she will soon be reunited with her family.
As is frequently the case with our media working to the demands of a frenzied 24-hour news cycle, there have been a lot of loud opinions expressed in even louder voices. These have only served to obscure the facts, a close discernment of which would give any rational person hope that we will soon see an end to this senseless tragedy.
Ibrahim has been sentenced for apostasy, a word that is derived from the Greek apostasia, which means defection or deviation. In Ibrahim's case there have been not one, but two defections – from the Sudanese constitution and from the teachings of Islam.
First, the fact that Ibrahim has been sentenced to death by a lower court, whose ruling has no standing in federal matters, has been largely ignored. The interim constitution of Sudan, drafted in 2005, explicitly permits freedom of religion in Sudan. Article 38 of the constitution, which deals with freedom of creed and worship, states that "every person shall have the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship – and no person shall be coerced to accept a faith that she or he does not believe in".
Whether the government of President Omar al-Bashir has followed the letter of the country's law in its actions to date is beside the point. The point is that the case has no legal standing in a higher court. The unconstitutionality of Ibrahim's sentencing (in addition to the international outrage) explains why Abdullahi Alazreg, under-secretary at Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has issued a statement saying that he expects her to be released soon (although the latest reports suggest that offer may have been retracted).
There is another apostasy that bears looking at in greater detail. Ibrahim's sentencing is also a clear deviation from the basic tenets of Sharia law. The famous jurist al-Ghazali (considered by many to be the single most influential Muslim after the prophet Muhammad) has stated the freedom of religion as the first of five essential rights that Sharia has granted to all individuals – the others having to do with the protection of life, lineage, intellect and property.
And yet, despite all of this, Ibrahim was sentenced in the name of Islamic law. How did this happen? Her case is symptomatic of a larger malaise afflicting the Arab and Muslim world, in which events are unfolding in a manner devoid of a rational compass or a clear moral underpinning. As we have seen in the recent past, when the public puts forth questions to the religious authorities they receive answers that in many cases clash with Islamic teachings, are not governed by logic or are simply unpalatable to taste. The end result is a confusion that becomes apparent in matters such as women's rights or the freedom of belief.
'The Qur'an has explicitly underscored that human will is the principal wellspring of faith'. Photograph: Shabbir Hussain Imam/EPA
There is really little need for confusion. The Qur'an has explicitly underscored that human will is the principal wellspring of faith rather than coercion or compulsion – for the simple reason that after being coerced, the human heart cannot find peace with itself, let alone with a fellow human being. In fact, there are numerous Qur'anic verses which emphasise the full freedom of man to embrace the religion that he desires and not to be forced to follow a particular religion.
These are not merely pleasant sentiments or platitudes. Their essence has been crucial to the very survival and growth of Islam. The rapid spread of Islam from north Africa to Asia within a century of its inception can largely be attributed to its ability to absorb and encourage the belief systems and teachings of foreign cultures. People in the west often forget how if it weren't for the Hellenised elites of the Arab world, the teachings of Plato, Euclid and Socrates would have passed into darkness. From the earliest days of the religion to the millet system practised by the Ottoman empire, the religion not only coexisted but engaged actively with Christianity and Judaism.
Why then are the strains of plurality that have sustained and nourished the Islamic world being eroded?
The answers might be found in more secular reasons as opposed to religious ones. After decades of oppressive rule by dictatorial regimes, large sections of the Arab world have been left unable to cope with a rapidly changing world. The low self-confidence that we find in large segments of the dispossessed exacerbates the sense of fear and enhances the feeling of being under threat. This in turn makes people more rigid in matters that give them comfort – for example, matters to do with religion and freedom of belief.
We see this extremism when terrorists use the ninth Sura of the Qur'an to justify acts of violence, when in reality the chapter calls for violence not to punish disbelievers, but only defend yourself against people who explicitly attack you – a sentiment that can be easily understood by the most atheistic westerners.
Inflexibility and extremism has a ripple effect. Large swaths of people reassess their beliefs when they perceive forms of backwardness, fanaticism and violence prevailing among some of the adherents of their own religion. Ibrahim might or might not have been a Muslim at some point in her life. The point is that if Muslims do not bring clarity to understanding the basic tenets of the religion, and if they do not embrace the flexibility that helped Islam flourish and grow, there will be many more Muslims who will leave the faith.
Rational people have an important role to play in recognising that the tradition of Islam was not built on uniformity – rather it was built on recognising the universality within all beings.
To give just one example of the harmony that has characterised large parts of Islamic history I'd like to go back to its very beginnings. The prophet Muhammad himself had a document drawn up for the protection of St Catherine that was sealed with a print of his hand. In the margin of the copy of the Achtinames, recording the prophet's will, a chapel and a minaret are illustrated side by side with a staircase occupying the space between them.
In that space it is my hope that we will obstinately continue to tell and record our stories. It is why we have organised the west Asia and north Africa forum in Amman on 11-12 June. The forum will be attended by leaders, academics, policy-makers and religious officials from all over the Arab world and will deal with how we can enable access to justice for all people that have no recourse to legal mechanisms for their most fundamental rights – be it religion, property, education or water.
I sincerely hope that this forum will help result in transnational measures that will prevent cases like that of Ibrahim occurring again. And that going forward the apostasies, these defections both from the rule of law and religious beliefs alike, cease.
The US Never Should Have Left Iraq
Stes de Necker
Author Reihan Slate
The United States made a grave mistake by invading Iraq in 2003. Yet it also made a grave mistake by withdrawing its military forces in 2011.
The notion that we were wrong to go in but that we were also wrong to get out is hard to comprehend for many people. Once Americans collectively settled on the idea that the Iraq War was a disaster, it was perhaps inevitable that we’d want to wash our hands of the whole ordeal. President Obama appeared to do just that when he declared in December of 2011 that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq,” knowing full well that we were doing no such thing. The disaster that is the Iraq War did not end when the last convoy of U.S. combat troops left the country more than three years ago, as many of us are now learning as the fragile Iraqi state loses ground to Sunni extremists.
There are precious few people who’ve been right about Iraq from the start. One of them is Brent Scowcroft, who had served as national security adviser in the first Bush administration. Americans had two big opportunities to listen to Scowcroft on Iraq. We blew both of them.
In August of 2002, as George W. Bush and his allies were building the case for regime change in Iraq, Scowcroft warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that an attack on Iraq “would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken.” Though Scowcroft was confident that the U.S. could succeed in destroying Saddam’s regime, he was also confident that military action would be expensive and bloody, and that it “very likely would have to be followed by a large-scale, long-term military occupation.” As we all know, Scowcroft’s warning went unheeded by the Bush White House.
Scowcroft offered another warning in America and the World, a widely ignored book published in 2008 that collected a series of exchanges between Scowcroft and his fellow foreign policy wise man Zbigniew Brzezinski. Recognizing that Iraq remained riven by communal conflict, Scowcroft argued that the country would continue to need a U.S. military presence for at least a few more years.
Under Saddam, Iraq’s Shia plurality was subjugated by its Sunni minority. The fear among Sunnis has long been that once the Shias come to power, they would be the victims of all manner of reprisals. A similar dynamic has long been at play in Syria, where the Assad regime, closely tied to the Alawite minority, rules over a Sunni majority. It also played a role in the Bosnian civil war, where various ethnic groups fought desperately toavoid minority status, which many believed would amount to a death sentence.
This desire to escape subjugation has been the central driver of the various Sunni insurgencies that have rocked Iraq for more than a decade. Some Sunni militants seek not just to avoid oppression and brutality at the hands of Shias but to reassert their dominance, often on the grounds that Shias are deviants or apostates. These are the true bitter-enders, for whom no compromise is possible. Most of Iraq’s Sunnis, however, see themselves as essentially defensive in orientation, and willing to lay down their arms if they are promised the right to live in peace. It is only when U.S. officials came to understand the crisis in Iraq as a communal civil war that they knew what they had to do to contain it: reassure the Sunnis that the Shias would do them no harm, if only because U.S. forces would keep Shia sectarianism in check.
As Scowcroft explained to Voice of America News in January of 2012, just weeks after withdrawal was complete, Iraq’s political leadership still needed to learn to make compromises among various ethnic, sectarian, and ideological factions. And in his view, “those compromises are probably easier to make in the embrace of a U.S. presence.” The end of the U.S. presence meant that these compromises were less likely, and that a war of all against all was much more likely.
It is important to emphasize that Scowcroft was not calling for a permanent U.S. presence in Iraq. Rather, he believed that the post-Saddam Iraqi state needed time to get on its feet, and its new elected rulers needed time and breathing room to repair trust among communities that had spent so long at each other’s throats.
So why did the U.S. leave Iraq at the end of 2011? Part of it is that many within the Obama administration simply didn’t believe that U.S. forces would make much of a difference to Iraq’s political future. Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker that “there is a risk of overstating the difference that American troops could make in the internal politics of Iraq,” and that a U.S. military presence “did not allow us to dictate sectarian alliances.”
Rhodes is choosing his words carefully, as there is hardly anyone who would argue that a U.S. military presence would or even could put the U.S. in a position to dictate sectarian alliances. There is no doubt, however, that a military presence gives the U.S. leverage to shape political outcomes. The fundamental question is whether even a small contingent of U.S. troops might have reassured members of Iraq’s minority communities by shielding them from the worst excesses of a Shia-dominated government, thus undermining those calling for its violent overthrow. Without a U.S. presence, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been free to do its worst, up to and including siccing Iraqi security forces on his political rivals. And Maliki’s brutality has, quite predictably, sparked a backlash.
That, of course, leads us to the other reason why U.S. forces were withdrawn: There were many Iraqis, and in particular many Shia Iraqis, who wanted American troops out of the country. Yet as Kimberly and Frederick Kagan have argued, the Obama administration could have done much more to reach an agreement with the Iraqi leadership. Indeed, Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times reported in 2012 that Iraqi lawmakers sensed that the president was ambivalent at best about committing to Iraq, and this made them far less inclined to pay a political price for hammering out a deal.
There are no easy answers as to what the United States should do next in Iraq. The U.S. has so far refused to launch drone strikes in support of the Iraqi government, though the Obama administration might still have a change of heart. Sunni militants are still on the march, and I have to assume that Iraqi Shias are not going to be in a compromising mood in the weeks and months to come. Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution best known for having offered a very hedged, very cautious case for invading Iraq, has recommended that the U.S. government use Maliki’s desperation to its advantage by promising Iraq the military support it needs in exchange for sweeping political reform designed to create a more inclusive Iraqi government. But one wonders what might have happened had we listened to Scowcroft—had we kept a residual U.S. military force in Iraq to prevent this nightmare from having occurred in the first place.
Conflict in Syria reaches a tipping point:
violence at unimaginable level
violence at unimaginable level
United Nations – Human Rights
Stes de Necker
An estimated 9.3 million people in Syria are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. More than four million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes and close to three million have left the country as refugees. In his latest update to the Human Rights Council, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, warned that the longer the conflict drags on, the greater the risk that the statistics mask the individual stories of “unimaginable suffering”.
“In documenting a mere fraction of these stories the Commission has uncovered large-scale violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” Pinheiro said at a news conference to discuss the Commission’s latest findings, which cover the period mid-March to mid-June 2014.
The Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established by the Human Rights Council, in August 2011, soon after the uprising began, has been investigating and documenting alleged violations of international human rights law by all parties to the conflict. In its regular reports back to the Council, the Commission has described multiple instances of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed by all sides and has consistently urged a negotiated political settlement between all of the parties involved.
More than three years on from the outbreak of fighting, Pinheiro said the conflict in Syria now threatens the entire region: “With warring parties in unrelenting pursuit of the illusion of a military victory, violence has escalated to an unprecedented level.” The situation is now at a “tipping point”, Pinheiro said.
The reason for the continued escalation in violence is no secret, the Chair told reporters, pointing to the abandonment of attempts to reach a negotiated political settlement to end the fighting and the continued supply of weapons, fighters, funds and other material assistance by a number of States and individuals either to the Government or non-State armed groups. “None of these States can claim ignorance that the weapons they transfer to the warring parties in Syria are used in the perpetration of war crimes and violations of human rights,” Pinheiro said.
“The international community, and specifically the Security Council, has yet to demand that the individuals perpetrating crimes against the men, women and children of Syria are held responsible,” the Commission says. In May, the Security Council vetoed a resolution which would have referred the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court.
“Through [its] inaction, a space has been created for the worst of humanity to express itself,” Pinhiero commented.
The Commission’s update to the Council depicts a world for Syrians where “decisions about whether to go to the mosque for prayers, to go to the market for food and to send their children to school have become decisions about life and death.”
Both government forces and non-State armed groups are targeting civilians more often, according to the Commission, and increasingly children have been attacked.
The Commission describes assaults on functioning schools, including a government missile attack on a primary school in Aleppo which killed 36 people, 33 of them children. In Damascus, in April, in one of several such attacks, an armed group fired three mortars into a high school, killing ten children.
The Security Council, in its resolution 2139 on humanitarian access, demanded that restrictions on the flow of food, water and medicines should not be used to punish entire populations, but that resolution has been “egregiously violated”, the Commission said.
The Government of Syria, by “effectively criminalizing medical care and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching those in need,” the Commission said, “has ensured that those who are wounded in attacks will not receive adequate treatment and likely die from their injuries.” Targeting of field hospitals and medical facilities is so commonplace, across the country, the Commission said, that staff do not mark their locations with a red cross or crescent for fear of inviting an attack.
Whilst also citing many instances where non-State armed groups have laid siege to towns and destroyed essential infrastructure, the Commission said the military strategy employed by the Government of terrorizing civilians, starving them, clearing them out of their local areas has been “catastrophic”.
According to this latest review, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of deaths in custody, particularly in detention centres in Damascus. Thousands of photographs of corpses given to the Commission indicate death by starvation and most “bear marks of horrific abuse – including strangulation, open wounds, burns and bruising.” A preliminary analysis by the Commission indicates the photographs were taken in Government military facilities. Non-State armed groups are also reported to be increasingly subjecting civilians to ill-treatment and torture. There are accounts of these groups taking civilian hostages, of public executions of their prisoners and targeting of journalists.
Warning that “a regional war in the Middle East draws ever closer”, Pinheiro said, “the international community has stumbled and fallen when it has come to seeking justice for and in our protection of the Syrian people.”
United Nations Report on Refugees
Stes de necker
According to the UN, global refugee figures are currently the highest since WW2.
The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, the UN says.
The overall figure of 51.2 million is six million higher than the year before.
According to Antonio Guterres, head of the UNHCR, this rise was a "dramatic challenge" for aid organisations.
Conflicts in Syria, central Africa and South Sudan fuelled the sharp increase.
"Conflicts are multiplying, more and more," Mr Guterres said. "And at the same time old conflicts seem never to die."
Of particular concern are the estimated 6.3 million people who have been refugees for years, sometimes even decades.
People living in what the UN terms "protracted" refugee situations include more than 2.5 million Afghans. Afghanistan still accounts for the world's largest number of refugees, and neighbouring Pakistan is host to more refugees than any other country, with an estimated 1.6 million.
Around the world, thousands of refugees from almost forgotten crises have spent the best part of their lives in camps. Along Thailand's border with Burma, 120,000 people from Burma's Karen minority have lived in refugee camps for more than 20 years.
Refugees should not be forcibly returned, the UN says, and should not go back unless it is safe to do so, and they have homes to return to. For many - among them the more than 300,000 mainly Somali refugees in Kenya's Dadaab camp - that is a very distant prospect.
Some camps, the UN refugee agency admits, have become virtually permanent, with their own schools, hospitals, and businesses. But they are not, and can never be, home.
But the world's refugees are far outnumbered by the internally displaced (IDP) - people who have been forced to flee their homes, but remain inside their own countries.
The UN says more people are displaced or are becoming refugees because the world is more violent
In Syria alone there are thought to be 6.5 million displaced people. The conflict has uprooted many families not once but several times. Their access to food, water, shelter and medical care is often extremely limited, and because they remain inside a conflict zone, it is hard for aid agencies to reach them.
Worldwide, the UN estimates there are now 33.3 million internally displaced people.
Human cost of war and persecution
People forcibly displaced worldwide
2.6m fled Afghanistan
1.6m refugees live in Pakistan
1.2m asylum claims worldwide
Large numbers of refugees and IDPs fleeing to new areas inevitably put a strain on resources, and can even destabilise a host country.
Throughout the Syrian crisis, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have kept their borders open. Lebanon now hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, meaning a quarter of its total population is Syrian. The pressure on housing, education and health is causing tensions in a country which itself has a recent history of conflict.
The UN is concerned that the burden of caring for refugees is increasingly falling on the countries with the least resources. Developing countries are host to 86% of the world's refugees, with wealthy countries caring for just 14%.
And despite the fears in Europe about growing numbers of asylum seekers and immigrants, that gap is growing. Ten years ago wealthy countries hosted 30% of refugees, and developing countries 70%.
Antonio Guterres believes Europe can and should do more.
"I think it's very important that Europe fully assumes its responsibilities," he said.
"I think it's also clear that we have in Europe good examples, Sweden, Germany, have taken very generous measures… but we need a joint expression of European solidarity."
But what frustrates UN aid agencies most of all is being asked to cope with ever more refugees, while the UN's political arm, the Security Council, seems unable either to resolve conflicts, or to prevent them starting.
"The world is becoming more violent, and more people are being forced to flee," said Mr Guterres, adding that humanitarian organisations had neither the capacity nor the resources to cope.
"There is no humanitarian solution to these problems… to see the Security Council paralysed, when all these crises are evolving, is something that doesn't make sense."
"What frustrates me is the suffering of people, to see so many innocent people dying, so many innocent people fleeing, so many innocent people seeing their lives completely broken, and the world being unable to put an end to this nonsense."
THE HISTORY OF NIGERIA
Stes de Necker
On 2 July 2014, the following article was published on the international social network Facebook, and was most probably read by numerous Facebook members.
“Nigeria is a country where almost 100 people die every blessed day. Why does it have all these problems? Scholars and analysts have long debated the question of why Nigeria, with all its human and resource wealth, remains so troubled by poverty, violence, instability and death. While people can and do disagree, they tend to settle on a few root causes, which all build on one another:
(1) British colonialism, which left the country weakened by a century of exploitation and manipulation, and which forced disparate ethnic and religious groups into an artificial state, set Nigeria up for decades of conflict for control over natural resources and over the government.
(2) A curse of oil wealth worsens those conflicts as well as the already-dire government corruption, feeding popular resentment against the state and at times against Nigerians from the other side of religious or ethnic divides who are perceived to receive more of the fruits of the oil wealth.
(3) A global rise in religious extremism exacerbates Christian-Muslim tension, and has introduced al-Qaeda-style violent extremism to the mostly-Muslim north.
(4) An ongoing economic malaise, made worse by the oil curse, leaves the lower classes in poverty and the educated middle-classes under-employed. While overall economic growth is high, most Nigerians have not benefitted.”
When knowing the history of Nigeria however, the situation in Nigeria appears somewhat differently.
The history of Nigeria in perspective
Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom, 64 years ago on 1 October 1960.
At the time, Nigeria's government was a coalition of conservative parties: the Nigerian People's Congress(NPC), a party dominated by Northerners and those of the Islamic faith, and the Igbo and Christian-dominated National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) led by Nnamdi Azikiwe. Azikiwe became Nigeria's maiden Governor-General in 1960. The opposition comprised the comparatively liberal Action Group (AG), which was largely dominated by the Yoruba and led by Obafemi Awolowo. The cultural and political differences between Nigeria's dominant ethnic groups - the Hausa ('Northerners'), Igbo ('Easterners') and Yoruba ('Westerners') - were sharp.
An imbalance was created in the polity by the result of the 1961 plebiscite. Southern Cameroon opted to join the Republic of Cameroon while Northern Cameroons chose to remain in Nigeria. The northern part of the country was now far larger than the southern part. In 1963, the nation established a Federal Republic, with Azikiwe as its first president. When elections were held in 1965, the Nigerian National Democratic Party came to power in Nigeria's Western Region.
The disequilibrium and perceived corruption of the electoral and political process led, in 1966, to several back-to-back military coups. The first coup was in January 1966 and led by Igbo soldiers under Majors Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. It was partially successful; the coup plotters murdered Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier Ahmadu Bello of the Northern Region and Premier Ladoke Akintola of the Western Region. But, the coup plotters struggled to form a central government. President Nwafor Orizu handed over government control to the Army, then under the command of another Igbo officer, General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Later, the counter-coup of 1966, supported primarily by Northern military officers, facilitated the rise of Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon to head of state. This sequence of events led to an increase in ethnic tension and violence.
In May 1967, the Eastern Region declared independence as a state called the Republic of Biafra, under the leadership of Lt Colonel Emeka Ojukwu. The Nigerian Civil Warbegan as the official Nigerian government side (predominated by soldiers from the North and West) attacked Biafra (South-eastern) on 6 July 1967 at Garkem. The 30 month war, with a long siege of Biafra and its isolation from trade and supplies, ended in January 1970. Estimates of the number of dead in the former Eastern Region are between 1 and 3 million people, from warfare, disease, and starvation, during the 30-month civil war.
France, Egypt, the Soviet Union, Britain and others were deeply involved in the civil war behind the scenes. Britain and the Soviet Union were the main military backers of the Nigerian government while France and others aided the Biafrans. Nigeria used Egyptian pilots for their air force.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined OPEC and the huge revenue generated made the economy richer. Despite huge revenues from oil production and sale, the military administration did little to improve the standard of living of the population, help small and medium businesses, or invest in infrastructure. As oil revenues fuelled the rise of federal subventions to states, the federal government became the centre of political struggle and the threshold of power in the country. As oil production and revenue rose, the Nigerian government became increasingly dependent on oil revenues and the international commodity markets for budgetary and economic concerns. It did not develop other sources of the economy for economic stability. That spelled doom to federalism in Nigeria.
Beginning in 1979, Nigerians participated in a brief return to democracy when Olusegun Obasanjo transferred power to the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari. The Shagari government became viewed as corrupt and incompetent by virtually all sectors of Nigerian society. The military coup of Muhammadu Buhari shortly after the regime's fraudulent re-election in 1984 was generally viewed as a positive development. Buhari promised major reforms, but his government fared little better than its predecessor. His regime was overthrown by another military coup in 1985.
The new head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, declared himself president and commander in chief of the armed forces and the ruling Supreme Military Council. He set 1990 as the official deadline for a return to democratic governance. Babangida's tenure was marked by a flurry of political activity: he instituted the International Monetary Fund's Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) to aid in the repayment of the country's crushing international debt, which most federal revenue was dedicated to servicing. He enrolled Nigeria in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which aggravated religious tensions in the country.
After Babangida survived an abortive coup, he pushed back the promised return to democracy to 1992. Free and fair elections were finally held on 12 June 1993, with a presidential victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. Babangida annulled the elections, leading to mass civilian violent protests which effectively shut down the country for weeks. Babangida finally kept his promise to relinquish office to a civilian-run government, but not before appointing Ernest Shonekan as head of the interim government. Babangida's regime has been considered the most corrupt, and responsible for creating a culture of corruption in Nigeria.
Shonekan's caretaker regime was overwhelmed in late 1993 by the military coup of General Sani Abacha. Abacha used violence on a wide scale to suppress the continuing civilian unrest. He shifted money to offshore accounts in various western European banks and voided coup plots by bribing army generals. Several hundred million dollars in accounts traced to him were discovered in 1999. The regime came to an end in 1998 when the dictator was found dead amid questionable circumstances.
His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, adopted a new constitution on 5 May 1999, which provided for multiparty elections. On 29 May 1999 Abubakar transferred power to the winner of the elections, Obasanjo, who had since retired from the military.
Nigeria regained democracy in 1999 when it elected Olusegun Obasanjo, the former military head of state, as the new President of Nigeria. This ended almost 33 years of military rule (from 1966 until 1999), excluding the short-lived second republic (between 1979 and 1983) by military dictators who seized power in coups d'état and counter-coups during the Nigerian military juntas of 1966–1979 and 1983–1998. Although the elections which brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as un-free and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development.
Ethnic violence for control over the oil-producing Niger Delta region and inadequate infrastructures are some of the issues in the country. Umaru Yar'Adua of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) came into power in the general election of 2007. The international community has been observing Nigerian elections to encourage a free and fair process, and condemned this one as being severely flawed.
Yar'Adua died on 5 May 2010. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as Yar'Adua's replacement on 6 May 2010, becoming Nigeria's 14th Head of State, while his vice-president, Namadi Sambo, an architect and former Kaduna State governor, was chosen on 18 May 2010, by the National Assembly. His confirmation followed President Jonathan's nomination of Sambo to that position.
Goodluck Jonathan served as Nigeria's president till 16 April 2011, when a new presidential election in Nigeria was conducted. Jonathan of the PDP was declared the winner on 19 April 2011, having won the election with a total of 22,495,187 of the 39,469,484 votes cast, to stand ahead of Muhammadu Buhari from the main opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which won 12,214,853 of the total votes cast. The international media reported the elections as having run smoothly with relatively little violence or voter fraud, in contrast to previous elections.
Because of its multitude of diverse, sometimes competing ethno-linguistic groups, Nigeria prior to independence has been faced with sectarian tensions and violence. This is particularly a major issue in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, where both state and civilian forces employ varying methods of coercion in attempts gain control over regional petroleum resources. Some of the ethnic groups like the Ogoni, have experienced severe environmental degradation due to petroleum extraction.
Since the end of the civil war in 1970, some ethnic violence has persisted. There has subsequently been a period of relative harmony since the Federal Government introduced tough new measures against religious violence in all affected parts of the country.
The 2002 Miss World pageant was moved from Abuja to London in the wake of violent protests in the Northern part of the country that left more than 100 people dead and over 500 injured. The rioting erupted after Muslims in the country reacted in anger to comments made by a newspaper reporter. Rioters in Kaduna killed an estimated 105 men, women, and children with a further 521 injured taken to hospital.
Since 2002, the country has seen sectarian violence by Boko Haram, an Islamist movement that seeks to abolish the secular system of government and establish Sharia law in the country.
In 2010, more than 500 people were killed by religious violence in Jos.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2014 claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 people crippled.
In May 2014 Benin,Chad, Cameroon and Niger joined Nigeria in a united effort to combat Boko Haram in the aftermath of the 2014 Chibok kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls.