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Ghana: Boycotting the IEA debate will hurt Mahama

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Comments from so-called NDC functionaries urging President Mahama to boycott next Tuesday’s debate under the auspices of the Institute of Economic Affairs are annoying, to say the least.

Leading the pack of those elements howling for a boycott is Alhaji Bature of the Alhaj newspaper, who thinks that public utterances by Mensa Otabil (General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church) have impugned the integrity of the President for which reason he must react strongly by boycotting the debate. Alhaji Bature thinks such an action is the best way to contemn Otabil, who is the Chairman of the IEA Committee, organizers of the Presidential debates.

He is of the opinion that Otabil’s verbal attacks on the President in reacting to the tape circulating about his (Otabil’s) rejection of free education betrayed his political bias and the President shouldn’t appear at that forum to rub shoulders with him. The boycott might be a way of registering the President’s protest or paying back Otabil.

Concentrated nonsense, that is. Nothing can be more childish and politically suicidal and unwise than a suggestion for a boycott of this IEA-sponsored debate. How do some people think?

Are the December Presidential elections between President Mahama (the NDC) and Mensa Otabil? Even then, if they were, won’t a boycott give an undue advantage to the party that uses the occasion to sell itself to the electorate?

There is no ground for a boycott of the debate. President Mahama must participate in it, and if he is worth retaining in office, prove it to Ghanaians through his delivery. The onus is on him and he has a heavier charge to acquit himself responsibly and remarkably to win support than those at the touchline finding fault here and there. If he has nothing to fear, he shouldn’t hide. Nor should he seek refuge in escapism.

Common sense dictates that Otabil be seen for what he is and written off without any more attention being paid to his wishy-washy damage control efforts. Once he couldn’t deny ever making those pronouncements and chose instead to hurl insults at the President and those using his pronouncements for politicking, it must be clear to all that he is not at peace with himself. Were he to be so, he would know how to control his emotions and not allow his heart instead of his head to influence his rhetorical manouevres.

Once Otabil has chosen to descend into the gutter by hiding behind insults and diversionary measures, he should be left to his fate to suffer silently. If he can’t do so, especially as his own conscience pricks him hard, he will yell again for us all to know how the mighty have fallen. After all, we know that nothing is ever more wretched than a guilty conscience.

Leaving Otabil to his fate means moving on with the kind of politicking that will win goodwill for President Mahama and his cause. It means going beyond what has been done so far or doing right what has been wrongly done. And many things have been done the wrong way! Those left undone at this stage in the electioneering campaigns should be tackled to “sell” President Mahama in a more concertedly persuasive manner.

We can tell from the rumpus surrounding this Otabil tape that the message has already sunk and Ghanaians who either support Akufo-Addo’s promise or see it as a ruse to gain political advantage have already made up their minds. Nothing will change anybody’s mind unless the inevitable happens. Akufo-Addo won’t take back the promise he has made, which the NPP considers at its flagship campaign message.

Those who have already welcomed it will not change their minds just because Otabil is saying that his pronouncements should not be used by the NDC for its campaigns; nor will those already skeptical of Akufo-Addo turn round to support him overnight even without anything new emerging to prove that his promise can be fulfilled. Or that he has a better administrative acumen than the incumbent. He doesn’t.

I know that his promise is nothing but a hollow political gimmick that is short on its being made and will be long on its fulfillment. I have long since treated it with contempt and will continue to condemn it for as long as I am not persuaded by stronger arguments woven around substance. So far, it’s all a matter of ugly noise, insults, and threats in reaction to my stance.

Certainly, those who seek to build the future don’t sit back to prate over the past. That’s why President Mahama must look beyond this Otabil irritant to position himself better for public acceptance. Participating in the IEA debate will give him the opportunity to present his own arguments and counter the negative impressions being created by his opponents. He needs to forcefully neutralize all that negative propaganda, using the IEA forum to present and defend his government’s policies and to justify why he should be given the mandate. No hard words will ever break anybody’s bones.

Considering the orchestrated negative propaganda that his opponents have mounted against him, it is better for him to use every opportunity to expose his true self and assure Ghanaians that he is a better quality material than all those at the periphery making noise to attract needless attention. I urge him not to budge to any form of intimidation from those purporting to be campaigning for him and threatening not to do so any more if he participates in Tuesday’s debate.

For all he may care to know, what will make or mar his electoral fortunes won’t necessarily depend on this fracas with Mensa Otabil. It has its roots in many problems, some of which have been caused by those claiming to be his campaigners.

Unfortunately for President Mahama, such problems have already harmed his interests and clawing back goodwill needs more action than what is being done. I have in mind problems created by those in government or in its communication team who have taken more delight in insulting at will than in doing mature politics to garner support for the Presidency.

The causes of some of these problems can also be traced to the Mills era, particularly the disenchantment against the government’s inability to fulfill its 2008 electioneering campaign promises and the continued worsening of living standards as a result of low productivity and insufficient revenues, the petroleum dividends notwithstanding.

The haughtiness of some NDC officials and public perception of corruption in government circles are others. We are even not talking about the in-fighting in the NDC and the emergence of the NDP as a manifestation of the weakening of the NDC’s support base. Make no mistake; the anger seething in those who have broken away cannot he easily defused; and the harm they will do to the NDC’s cause may be noticed only at election time.

It is in this vein that President Mahama must be cautious in his electioneering campaign efforts. Without seeking to dampen his spirits, let me say that there are dark clouds hanging all over the political horizon as a result of the persistent misinformation/disinformation campaigns by the NDC’s opponents who are spreading malicious lies and downright insults against President Mahama and his own followers’ miscalculations.

Winning the elections needs level-headedness in the political campaigns, not the flim-flammery that has come to notice. The situation will not improve if those whose unguarded utterances and ill-mannered conduct are not disciplined. I have in mind some whom—for want of any better word to qualify them—I will write off as buffoons in the NDC.

Take Allotey Jacobs of Cape Coast, for instance. Here is someone whose utterances have continued to vex many because they are either uncouth or politically unwise. His recent pronouncements on what is happening at the NDC front in Elmina clearly demonstrates his buffoonery. One expects that a character like him will not be given the kind of responsibility that he has had all this while.

There are many more of his type all over the place who are good only in the amount of anger that they provoke against the government. How can the President win any public goodwill with such characters playing the frontline role in his electioneering campaigns?

One is even not talking about Afriyie Ankrah, the co-ordinator of President Mahama’s campaign, who was so immature and politically unwise as to compare the recent Melcom tragedy to the fate of the NPP at the December polls. He has withdrawn that comment and apologized but the harm he has done through that impolitic comment can’t be repaired easily. Indeed, President Mahama has a lot to do within the short period left.

In sum, then, boycotting the IEA debate will dim his light and portray him as politically immature and incontinent. No voter will go for such a person to be the country’s President.

Ethiopia: Bamboo, Mud and New Friendships

Source: member // Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

NRC prefabricated shelter assembled and ready for mud plastering, which will be carried out by the beneficiaries themselves with support and supervision from NRC staff. Photo: NRC/Karoline Røsholm Eckroth

The sounds of hammering, electric saw and Somali song fills the air in Kobe refugee camp in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, a few kilometres from the Somali border. It is just after lunchtime and the energy is high in the prefabrication workshop. The men, working in four different sections, assembling doors and windows, nailing trusses, cutting logs, and splitting bamboo, consist of Somali refugees and members of the host community and have all been hired by NRC. The local communities and the Somali refugees are involved in the whole process, from production of the different shelter parts to assembling the complete shelters.

Situated in the southeast of Ethiopia, Dolo Ado is the second largest refugee complex in the world after Dadaab, located in Kenya. The population recently passed the 170,000 mark, with new arrivals citing fear of harassment and forced recruitment by armed groups.

35-year-old Ali Mohammed Hussein fled his home in Bakool, Somalia about 15 months ago. Ali, his wife and six children escaped the fighting between the al-Shabaab militia and the Transitional Government Forces and embarked on the long and perilous journey to Ethiopia. Here, in Dolo Ado, they have been assisted with one of NRCs environmentally friendly shelters produced from local materials; and at the same time Ali has secured a livelihood through producing new shelter parts that will benefit other vulnerable families. His work consists of splitting bamboo into four sticks that will be used for walls. “It is hard work,” Ali explains while wiping the sweat off his forehead, “but thanks to NRC and this job I am able to provide for my family and send my children to school”.

Working together

The prefabrication workshop is also a place where refugees and members of the host community come together and work side by side. This cooperation helps reduce potential tension and has even created new friendships.

“Before I started working here I did not know anyone besides people in the refugee camp. Now, I have found new friendships among the people I work with,” says Ali.

One of his colleagues from the host community is Mahad Hassan, who has worked for NRC making doors and windows for almost a year.

“It’s great that NRC is helping us from Dolo Ado too”, Mahad explains. “We also need to provide for our families and have a roof over our heads.”

The community in Dolo Ado was hit hard by last year’s drought, throwing many families into poverty. People from this area are mainly pastoralists, who rely on their livestock to survive. Last year’s drought resulted in massive loss of livestock and many are still struggling to make ends meet. Consequently, NRC is providing shelter and livelihood assistance to the most vulnerable members of the host community.

Using local material

The shelter type NRC is building in Dolo Ado is made from locally produced materials, benefitting the local and national economy. The walls are made from bamboo, one of Ethiopia´s main export products, which can be sourced not far from the camps. Bamboo grows quickly, making it a more environmental friendly material for construction than trees. The corrugated iron sheets used to make roofs, windows and doors are also produced in Ethiopia. Windows and doors are lockable and therefore provide beneficiaries with increased protection. So far in 2012, NRC, together with the refugees and host community, has constructed 3,015 of these shelters in Dolo Ado, benefitting more than 15,000 people.

NRC in Ethiopia

In order to respond to the humanitarian emergency and high influx of Somali refugees, NRC started operations in Ethiopia in July 2011 in close cooperation with the Ethiopian government, the UN and NGOs. NRC is currently assisting Eritrean refugees in the north, South Sudanese refugees in the east and Somali refugees in the South with shelter and education, benefitting more than 56,200 vulnerable people. NRC has secured funding from several sources to implement its projects in Ethiopia. The main donors include Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA), European Commission for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), The UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC), Humanitarian Relief Foundation (HRF), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM)

Read more: http://www.nrc.no/ethiopia

Google vs Doogle: Internet giant threatens to sue South African school dropout

Internet giant Google is threatening to sue a 23-year-old school dropout after he set up a jobseekers website and named it Doogle.

Lawyers working on behalf of the world’s largest search engine, worth an estimated £160bn, wrote to South African-based Andries Maree Van Der Merwe ordering him to shut down his site or change its name and logo.

Van Der Merwe, from Middelburg in Mpumalanga province, had the idea for the job site while selling newspapers on a street corner having dropped out of school aged 16.

Internet giant Google is threatening to sue the South African job site Doogle over its similar name and logoDavid vs Goliath: Internet giant Google is threatening to sue the South African job site Doogle over its similar name and logo

After finding an  investor to back him he registered the web address doogle.co.za, in January 2011 and set up his site which allows jobseekers to upload their details for free and search online directories.

 Mr Van Der Merwe told the Guardian newspaper: ‘I sold newspapers on street corners and people told me what was wrong,’ he recalled. ‘They wanted a place where they go to find a job.’

‘The name just popped into my head. I said, “That’s the name I’m going for – people will remember it.”

‘I searched domain names and it was available.’

Google, which receives an average of 7.2 billion page views every day, has risen to become one of the world’s most powerful corporations with headquarters in Silicon Valley.

Google headquarters in Silicon Valley CaliforniaGoogle headquarters in Silicon Valley California. The site receives a staggering 7.2 billiion page views every day

Doogle, by comparison, took a year to reach its millionth hit and is currently making a loss. It was set up on a £43 computer bought at a pawn shop which Mr Van Der Merwe still uses to edit the site.

He added: ‘I haven’t made any money from the site. Sometimes I have to catch fish from the river to eat. But I think God is with me,’ he said.

‘Eventually I want to have a successful company and help people. I know a guy who got a job through Doogle and he’s now a manager.’

Google claims that Doogle’s logo and search engine infringe its copyright and say there is a danger that users will assume the two sites are associated.

But Mr Van Der Merwe, who works part-time as a software engineer, refutes the claims and says he is ready to go to court to fight his corner.

GOOGLE

Business type:

Global search engine

Founded:

1997

Headquarters:

State of the art offices in Mountain View, Silicon Valley, California

Estimated value:

£160bn

Company assets:

YouTube acquired in 2006 for $1.65 billion, Gmail launched in 2004 and the Android mobile phone operating system

DOOGLE

Business type:

South African job site

Founded:

2011

Headquarters:

Andries Maree Van Der Merwe’s flat in Mpumalanga province

Estimated value:

N/A

Company assets:

Mr Van Der Merwe’s ancient computer bought for the sum of £43 from a Mpumalanga province pawn shop

His lawyer, Emmie de Kock, said: ‘The services provided by Doogle-it are distinguishable from the services of Google in the sense that Doogle-it provides online search facilities on its website for specific directories relating to businesses, job seekers, property listings and motor trading, for entries registered on its local databases.’

A spokesman for Google South Africa, told the Guardian: ‘We can’t comment on individual cases, but we are passionate about protecting the reputation of our brand as an objective and fair provider of search results.
Daily Mail

Consequences of the Petraeus Scandal

Alan W. Dowd
The unfolding scandal surrounding former CIA Director David Petraeus has many layers, far more than we can see today. But even at this early hour, some things are clear. For ease of discussion, let’s put these things—“known knowns” as Don Rumsfeld would call them—under four broad headings: the human, the military, the political and the geopolitical dimensions of the Petraeus scandal.

Human

A month ago, putting those last two words—“Petraeus” and “scandal”—next to each other or even in the same sentence or article would have been unthinkable. Such was his stature and public image. But this sad story is yet another reminder that all of us have feet of clay; all of us are capable of doing great and inspiring things as well as dumb and ugly things. Our reputations are only as good as the depth of our next mistake. And as Petraeus now knows, the bigger the reputation, the bigger the fall.

To be sure, a key contributing factor in Petraeus’s outsized reputation was his impressive record, which we will discuss in a moment. But another contributing factor was the notoriety and even celebrity that blossomed around him, which he appears to have cultivated in some ways. (Just consider the book written by Ms. Broadwell.) This “celebrification” of military and political leaders is not new, but it is reaching epidemic levels. And it’s unhealthy for the republic, especially in relation to military leaders.

It doesn’t have to be this way. As Derek Leebaert reminds us in his essential history of the Cold War, The Fifty Year Wound, after Gen. George Marshall ended his career of military and public service, he “joined no corporate board…gave no paid speeches” and refused a million-dollar book deal, “at least the equivalent of a $7-million book deal today.” Marshall’s answer to the offer: “The people of the United States have paid me for my services.”

Douglas MacArthur, who was indeed a celebrity general, counseled that America’s military should stand “serene, calm, aloof,” always guided by “those magic words: duty, honor, country.”

Fueled by that very-human flaw known as pride, celebrity poisons that formula of effective command, as MacArthur and Petraeus learned in different ways.

Military

By resigning and taking responsibility for his lapse in judgment, Petraeus did the right thing. But by doing the wrong thing, he jeopardized his reputation and capsized his career—a career that was far from over.

Petraeus came into the public’s field of vision at a time when nothing was going right in Iraq—and virtually no one thought the Iraq project could be salvaged. But that’s exactly what Petraeus did. After rewriting the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency manual, he put it to the test in Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi; altered the course of the war; saved Iraq from itself; and rescued America from defeat. President Obama then asked Petraeus to make lightning strike twice by repeating in Afghanistan what he accomplished in Iraq. And then, the president tapped Petraeus to work his counter-insurgency and counter-terror magic at the CIA.

Petraeus was remarkably suited for the post-9/11 campaign of campaigns, able to fuse together intelligence, diplomacy, counterinsurgency and kinetic operations to wage a fusion war. Before Petraeus took his CIA post, a veterans group was even pushing the President to award Petraeus a fifth star for his exceptional command and leadership during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At barely 60 years old, Petraeus had fought and vanquished America’s enemies on several fronts. No one will ever know what this outstanding general officer might have done had his career not been cut short by his misconduct.

This isn’t to say that people don’t deserve second chances, but after falling from such a high perch, it seems unlikely that Petraeus will ask for a second chance to lead in a public way.

Political

That brings us to some of the political dimensions of this scandal. A Petraeus run for the presidency or pick as vice president seems remote now, as does a role for Petraeus as defense secretary or Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman. Fair or not, his indiscretion, in effect, disqualifies him from consideration for these roles because it could have compromised issues related to intelligence, national security, etc.

This invites comparison to the Clinton scandal, of course. Perhaps the most that can be said in this regard is that after he recognized his failing, Petraeus had a sense of honor and resigned for the good of his family and country.

The other political dimension at play here is far more important to the nation. After all, this is a scandal within a scandal. It pays to recall that Petraeus knew a great deal about the Benghazi scandal. Petraeus made it clear that his agency did not cover its ears when Americans under fire called out for help. “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate,” a CIA official declared as the White House began to search for a scapegoat. Doubtless, that statement was released with Petraeus’s assent.

ABC News reports that “Petraeus traveled to Libya to conduct his own review of the Benghazi attack…While in Tripoli, he personally questioned the CIA station chief and other CIA personnel who were in Benghazi on Sept. 11.” This was just weeks before the sex-scandal story broke—conveniently two days after the presidential election.

Some, like Lt. Col. Ralph Peters (USA RET), think Petraeus knew so much that the scandal was used to keep him quiet. “The timing is just too perfect for the Obama administration,” Peters recently said in an interview. “Just as the administration claimed it was purely coincidence that our Benghazi consulate was attacked on the anniversary of September 11th. Now it’s purely coincidence that this affair—extra-marital affair—surfaces right after the election, not before, but right after, but before the intelligence chiefs go to Capitol Hill to get grilled. As an old intelligence analyst…the way I read this—I could be totally wrong, this is my interpretation—is that the administration was unhappy with Petraeus not playing ball 100 percent on their party-line story…I don’t like conspiracy theories, I may be totally wrong, but the timing of this, again, right after the election and right before Petraeus is supposed to get grilled on Capitol Hill, it really smells.”

In fact, ABC reports that “Petraeus is telling friends he does not think he should testify.”

Geopolitical

Finally, there is the geopolitical dimension. Considered alongside the Secret Service sex scandals and a number of general officers being relieved of command for various indiscretions, the unfolding and widening Petraeus scandal conveys a lack of seriousness, lack of judgment, lack of restraint and lack of propriety among people in key leadership positions—people who should possess all of these traits. It sends a terrible message to the world. Friends will wonder about decision making and stability in Washington, and foes could try to exploit the distractions, disorder and discontinuity.

Petraeus Scandal Means Media Can No Longer Ignore Benghazi

By Rick Esenberg
The bar for scandals has been getting pretty high. When I was a kid, a president was forced from office because he tried to cover up illegal behavior by his subordinates. As Nixon put it, “mistakes were made” and they proved to be the end of him. He richly deserved it.

Twenty-five years later, we countenanced a president who committed felony perjury because it was “just about sex” and the Dow Jones was up. Until now, most of the legacy media showed little interest in the Obama administration’s apparently deliberate attempt to obscure the nature of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi. We must be a kinder and gentler nation today. “Mistakes,” at least by Democrats, seem much easier to forgive.

The Benghazi scandal, until very recently, seemed to be a prime example of the mainstream’s media determination to see no evil when it might harm a favored president. In a rare moment that was both memorable and lucid, Joe Biden struck upon one of the few positive themes of the Obama campaign. “General Motors is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead.” Those nasty old terrorists are on the run. The president’s amazing name and Jedi-like powers of persuasion (“this is not the jihad you are looking for”) had brought about the Arab Spring. We’re safe now. We are now post-9/11.

But the theme threatened to unravel on, of all days, September 11, 2012 with the organized attack on our consulate in Benghazi. Within 24 hours, the CIA station in Libya and other sources close to the attack seem to have known what really happened. Nevertheless, the administration – whether deliberately or from confirmation bias – set out to create the impression that this was not an organized attack by Islamic terrorists who were supposed to no longer exist. They suggested it was simply a protest against a “despicable” on-line video denigrating the Prophet that got out of hand. In a creepy display of moral equivalence, the President’s surrogates suggested that there was no excuse for the (nonexistent) protesters or the blasphemous filmmaker.  Even CIA Director David Petraeus appears to have supported the cover story in a briefing on Capitol Hill several days after the attack.

As that story unraveled and questions began to arise regarding the failure of the administration to come to the aid of the besieged consulate, it finally conceded that there was no protest. It turns out to have been those terrorists again. In Watergate terms, this was a “modified limited hangout.” Admit some of the truth within a haze of misdirection and hope no one notices. The mainstream media was too eager to comply.

But everything may have changed last Friday. It was then that we learned that a couple of our most decorated military commanders and at least one of their female acquaintances have been acting like the cast of the HBO series “Girls.” Petraeus turns out to have been having an affair with his biographer.  The biographer, herself married with two small children, allegedly had come to see a female friend of the Petraeus family as a romantic rival and began to send her threatening e-mails. Our current commander in Afghanistan, a man known as the “warrior monk,” is being investigated for sending an inordinately large number of “inappropriate” e-mails to the aforementioned friend and suspected rival. Insert your own bad pun.

It turns out that even the best of us are fallen beings.

Sex and lies and videotape and terrorists. This is something that simply cannot be ignored and it deepens the Benghazi plot. Officials in the Justice Department apparently knew that the Director of the CIA was compromised in this way since last summer but did not tell the President until after the election.  Even if that is true, it does not make the matter much better. Shouldn’t the President of the United States – even one engaged in the critical business of keeping his job – know that the government’s top intelligence official is ripe for blackmail?

It may get worse. Petraeus knew that his philandering had been exposed at the time that he briefed Congress. But he apparently still thought that he might be able to keep his job. Could that have affected a briefing that was apparently at odds with the facts on the ground? You want to think not, but the question is unavoidable.

Many are struck by the fact that the revelation of the affair and ensuing resignation seems to have come in a sweet spot for the administration – after the election and before Petraeus was scheduled to testify before a congressional oversight committee.  That testimony was cancelled and Petraeus himself apparently thinks he need not testify.

He’s fooling himself.  Members on both sides of the aisle are making it quite clear that he will testify whether he wants to or not. Resignation does not absolve one of responsibility.

Mistakes were made. It remains to be seen just what they were and what the consequences will be.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Dialogue Option – A dangerous Option

By Ben Nanaghan 

On 1 November, 2012 the dreaded Islamic fundamentalist organization known as boko haram offered the olive branch through its second-in-command Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz in a telephone conference chat with journalists in Maiduguri, the  Borno State Capital.

The faceless criminal also revealed that boko haram was now ready to lay down arms and dialogue with the Federal Government. According to him, the boko haram number one commander and national leader, Imam Shekau has approved 5 faceless boko haram top shots to dialogue with the Federal Government.

The boko haramists did not stop there. If the Federal Government was excited and happy about  boko haram’s change of heart, this joy was short-lived as boko haram handed over to the Federal Government a very stringent list of conditions and a well considered list of ‘trusted’ Nigerians who boko haram would like to dialogue with on the federal bench. In other words, boko haram wants the Federal Government delegation to the conference of peace  to include only “trusted” Nigerians who are sympathetic to their cause including their Legal Advisers  Mrs Aisha Alkali Wakil and her husband.

The dialogue snare  by boko haram is a dangerous ploy to hoodwink both  Nigerians and the Presidency into believing that the war is  over. On the contrary boko haram  is presently restrategising for a more deadly phase of their operation which they aim to achieve by playing the angel to diplomatically counterforce the Federal Government into releasing  hundreds of their terrorism experts who are presently languishing in Federal Prisons. The plan is to up the ante to finally frighten Jonathan out of the 2015 Presidential race.

During the tenure of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2009, boko haram fooled the Federal Government into releasing all their trained jihadists who were then in various prisons. After the release of the boko haramists the Federal Governemnt was left high and dry while Mohammed Yusuf the boko haram leader then regrouped and reorganized his Islamist fundamentalist gang.

One thing the Federal Government must  realize is that boko haram has infiltrated the highest echelon of government. I therefore believe that any government official of northern origin who is trying to convince the Presidency of the sincerity of boko haram is a boko haramist himself. Even though I am on the side of dialogue, the Federal Government must be very circumspect and cautious in dealing with boko haram which I am convinced is only interested in the release of their hard core criminal jihadists in federal jailhouses.

A cursory glance at the boko haram conditionalities shows a thin veil of gross insincerity and undeniable deception.

Boko haram also compounded matters by choosing the venue of the would-be dialogue. And their venue of preference is Saudi Arabia which till date bears  acrimony against Nigeria for having a Christian President. To say that we have a frosty relationship with Saudi Arabia is a great understatement. The era of cold war between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia started immediately after the death of President Umaru Musa  Yar’Auda.

And so boko haram has chosen the venue also. And so in this matter boko haram is the judge and the jury. And if this conference holds as so planned the outcome will be a soliloquy and at best a monologue but never a dialogue.

Another precondition for dialogue is the rebuilding of all mosques destroyed by the Joint  Task Force (JTF) during their  operation to flush out these hideous jihadists from their hideouts. They also  charged the Federal Government to compensate them for all their colleagues who  have fallen during this mad jihadist crusade.

But unfortunately no mention was made of the thousands of Christians and  their churches that have been lost to the insanity of boko haram.

Boko haram also called for the immediate arrest and trial of the former governor and alleged founder of boko haram, Alhaji Modu Sheriff. The problem between the creator and the creatures is a matter of love gone sour.  The former governor can no longer afford to pump millions of dollars into their coffers and boko haram leadership is not too convinced that Alhaji Sheriff is not as financially “loaded” as he was when he was a governor.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan himself has welcomed the dialogue plan only if it will bring peace to a battered boko haram wary nation. But my humble advice to the President is that this boko haram  peace initiative  will never bring peace to this country. It will rather strengthen boko haram with renewed  vigour from their jailed experts who will be released by the Federal Government. It will give them more gusto and vista to pursue their nefarious activities. It will give them more bounce and more bite.

The command and leadership  paradigm of boko haram is not as water tight as it was between 2001-2009 when boko haram founder Muhammed Yusuf  was in charge. Mohammed Yusuf was to boko haramist akin to a cult hero and figure. But today the boko haram command structure is splintered and broken.

For instance it was members of boko haram that killed General Mamman Shuwa but boko haram’s 2nd – in-command denied this sacrilegious assassination. General Shuwa was one of those very brilliant soldiers who won the civil war for Nigeria. Other soldiers of fame and note during the civil war were colonel Sule Apollo and Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle.

These unsung war heroes never had the accolades they deserved. They never governed this country. Most of the military rulers of Nigeria were unheard of during the civil war but to day they are all trillionaires calling  the shots for boko haram.

General Shuwa must be given a dignified national burial. He was  never a Military President   but he was greater than them all-even in humility and in death.

Like I have always concluded in all my previous epistles on boko haram, I am highly convinced that boko haram took on a new political garb after the April 2011 Presidential Election which President Goodluck Jonathan won convincingly.

Before 2011, boko haram was a ragtag, bow and arrow army with daggers and locally made guns as their main arsenal.

But even before the President’s victory, the defeated northern Presidential candidates and their cohorts openly declared in the full  glare of  national television that they would make Nigeria ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan if he won. This gave impetus to boko haram

And before, during and after the April 2011 election a plethora or arms were shipped into this country to fight this Jihad. Most of these arms came from Islamic  countries including Iran and so today a boko haram that was wielding dane guns and cutlasses and bows and arrows has now transformed into one  the most  sophisticated terrorist groups in   modern times.

Today our boko haram now uses improvised explosive devices (IEDS), bazookas, AK47 rifles, bombs and also has an armoury that will make a national army green with envy.

Today’s boko haram are networked to link up with al-qaeda in the Islamic Magreb  region. All these connections were made by these politicians who are watching from the side line with big money.

Those who tout the tale that boko haram emanated  from social deprivations, and joblessness should know that there is more  abject poverty in the creeks of the Niger Delta than  anywhere in the world. There is poverty all over Nigeria. Poverty and infrastructural collapse is not the special preserve of the North. It is a malaise  which unfortunately spreads through the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

However, in the event of dialogue, the FG must present  a very strong team and must insist on including boko haram sponsors on the boko haram delegation.

Going to dialogue with these faceless boko haram spirits without their political and military sponsors would be an exercise in futility.

Wishing the FG team all the luck in the world.

•Nanaghan wrote in from Lagos. E-mail: bennanaghan@yahoo.com

Nigeria: The rivalry among billionaire pastors to own private jets

By Jideofor Adibe,
opinion

It is no longer rumour. Hard-talking Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and founder of Word of Life Bible Church, has joined the elite league of Nigerians who own private jets.

According to reports, Oritsejafor’s jet, marked N431CB, was delivered to him on 10 November 2012 at the celebration of his 40th year of being on the pulpit. The jet, estimated to cost some US $4.9m (or roughly 769.3 million naira at the current official exchange rate), was manufactured in 1994 and previously belonged to two different owners in the US. Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s anniversary, held at the Word of God Bible Church in Warri, Delta State, had eminent dignitaries in attendance, including President Goodluck Jonathan.

The rivalry among billionaire pastors to own private jets appears to be the current wave of the competition among Pentecostal churches and their leaders who often proclaim themselves ‘saved’ and have no qualms unleashing themselves on us as the intermediaries between God and us sinful mortals. First there was competition on the size of churches, the number of people who attended them and the weekly returns from sundry offertories, tithes, collections and several donations and levies for ‘doing God’s work’. Then the competition pushed them into going ‘world-wide’ – in search of hard currency, prestige or ‘winning souls for Christ’. Quite often they operate like franchises as they open offices across the world. As more money poured in, ‘doing God’s work’ transmuted to owning schools and universities, choice properties, farmlands and now aeroplanes. And as they compete on the material plane, competition to be seen as miracle workers, harbingers of prosperity and God’s chosen intermediaries also intensified. If your church neither performs miracles nor brings prosperity, then you are on your own. ‘Believers’ want a happening place, not time wasters.

I am not trying to come between anyone and his or her belief or ridicule any one’s faith. I know enough about faith to know it is a belief in things unseen – which means it has nothing to do with rationality or science. I am a firm believer in God, in the existence of an omnipotent and omniscience God who oversees the affairs of us little, sinful, mortals. However I believe that my relationship with God is a private matter, something between me and my Creator. Largely because of this, I have a morbid suspicion of people who flaunt their piety or who use what I will regard as subterfuges to prey on the gullibility and vulnerability of the underclass who often form the core of the followership of religious leaders. Pentecostal pastors are not the only culprits in this regard. Across the country and the religions, charlatans, rabble-rousers and conmen and women also use religion and phony pious ambience to mask their lust for money and power. And this creates image problem for the few who are truly called to the spiritual vocation.

The excuse often used by our ‘pastorprenuers’ – (apologies to the writer Eddie Iroh) to justify their morbid craving for the epitome of the things of the world always reminds me of the book Animal Farm – an allegorical novella by George Orwell published in England on 17 August 1945. In that book, after the animals had succeeded in overthrowing their human oppressors, the leaders of the new regime, essentially the pigs, began to re-make the rules to enable them corner all the good things in the Animal Farm for their exclusive use. For instance they banned all the other animals from eating the apples on the Farm. And their justification? They never really liked apples but scientists had found they were good for brain work – which they alone did in Animal Farm!

Re-wind to the congregation of the Word of God Bible Church in Warri, Delta State on 10 November 2012. When it was announced that the church had acquired a 10-seater Bombardier/ Challenger 601 aircraft , the announcement was greeted with “loud ovation and applause” (Punch, 11 November 2012). The Vanguard of 11 November 2012 reported that the “jubilant congregation spent over 15 minutes congratulating one another even as the recipient did not make any comment on the jet said to have been purchased for him by the church”. As far as the members (or most members) were concerned, it was not a piece of luxury for Pastor Oritsejafor. It was something to enable their Pastor maximize his time in ‘doing God’s work’.

Sometime in 2008, I found myself in a different area of London where I had to live briefly. One Sunday I was looking for a place to worship and by chance sauntered into a Pentecostal church – which had a Zambian as a Pastor. There were no more than 15 people in the congregation. The Pastor had apparently been having an issue with the landlord who wanted the church to vacate the place – a rather spacious lounge that could accommodate up to 200 people.

Just before the service ended, when people were giving testimonies of the good things the Lord had done for them during the week, the Pastor chose to be the last person to testify. “Many of you are aware of the issue the church has been having with our Landlord”, he began in a low tone and then paused for effect. The congregation was wrapped in attention. The Pastor continued. He was, he said, led by the spirit a few days before to the landlord to talk about the church’s tenancy. When he got to the landlord, he found him unusually friendly. He paused again amid shouts of “our Lord is good” and “Alleluiah”. The pastor claimed that as he discussed with the landlord he could see a halo over the landlord’s head and knew immediately that the Lord was about to do a great thing that day. More shouts of ‘Alleluiah’ and the ‘Lord is good all the time.’

Briefly, the landlord, who had all along insisted they should vacate the premise that day told the Pastor that he would not only allow them to continue with their tenancy but would also encourage the church to buy the place.

The small crowd was uncontrollable in its excitement and dabbled into several songs praising the Lord. From where I was, I began to wonder whether the landlord was not just being a smart businessman rather than someone who had come under the influence of the spirit of God .It was the height of the collapse of the property market when many landlords were having a hell of time because securing mortgages had become almost impossible for most potential property buyers. Landlords were happy if they had tenants who paid their rents as and when due.

From my wonderland I heard the pastor lower his voice, almost to a whisper, and said: “Even though the price is £1.2m, I know our good Lord will do it for us”. As be began a lengthy sermon of the benefits of the church having its own place where it can serve the Lord, I began to do a mental arithmetic of how this small congregation was ever going to raise the money to enable the pastor buy the building. Predictably, before the service ended, the Pastor said he would like to see all the men – about five or so were there – for a proper briefing on the plans about buying the building. I offered apologies that I had other engagements and left. I never went back. Admittedly not all ‘men of God’ are like the Zambian Pastor or Eddie Iroh’s ‘Pastoprenuers’ but my suspicion of them is truly deep.

For Pastor Oritsejafor’s 40th anniversary on the pulpit I consider it an error of judgement that the announcement of the purchase had to be made in the presence of President Jonathan as it could wrongly suggest that the President supported the purchase or had a foreknowledge of it. Given President Jonathan’s rather simple lifestyle and the level of poverty in the country, being associated with such ostentation could undermine his standing before many Nigerians.

I also consider it an error of judgement that the President had to attend the event at all. With all due respect, I find Pastor Oritsejafor’s hard line views on some political issues rather uncomfortable. By gracing the occasion, an impression could be created that the President supports those hard line views of the Pastor or that the Pastor was merely acting out the President’s script.

For sure Pastor Oritsejafor is not the only religious preacher who takes inappropriate hard line views on national issues. Several Islamic preachers are also guilty of the same offence. But such views should be side-lined, not mainstreamed by the president inadvertently legitimising their purveyors.

Ethiopia agreed deal to send women to work as maids in UAE

An Ethiopian official said the country’s government is close to lifting a ban on its nationals working in the UAE after reaching a labour agreement with authorities in the Emirates.

The treaty, expected to be made public in the next two months, would guarantee a minimum wage and insurance for Ethiopian maids and low-paid workers, the official claimed.

In July, the Ethiopian government banned women from coming to the UAE to work as maids after a series of complaints about serious physical and sexual abuse.

  1. In July, the Ethiopian government banned women from coming to the UAE to work as maids after a series of complaints about serious physical and sexual abuse

    In July, the Ethiopian government banned women from coming to the UAE to work as maids after a series of complaints about serious physical and sexual abuse

Mesganu Arga Moach, the Ethiopian consul general in Dubai, has been a negotiator at meetings with the government and said he was happy that the agreement would provide new minimum standards for maids.

“The UAE is ready to sign and I believe it can solve the problems we have had with domestic workers,” he said. “We have many problem cases on our hands. People think it is just a few they read about but really there are many.”

The agreement came after negotiations were held in Ethiopia between the Ethiopian government, UAE foreign ministry officials and representatives of the UAE Embassy in Ethiopia.

Moach said Ethiopia also raised its “very serious concerns” about a maid in Abu Dhabi who was allegedly tortured to death by her employer. The case is currently before Abu Dhabi courts and a verdict could be delivered next month. Moach said Ethiopian diplomats are monitoring the case closely.

“We arranged for the maid’s body to be sent home, we have liaised with her family and have discussed the matter with the UAE government, so we are following up on the case,” he said.

He believes the UAE is committed to resolving issues over the treatment of maids.

“We saw recently that there was a new system for illegal workers to leave the country without being fined, so there is a real willingness on the UAE’s part to work on these issues,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE has called on employers to respect Filipino government rules and pay their domestic workers at least Dhs1,470 per month. Her call came after complaints that employers were ignoring the rules imposed by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Source: 7daysindubai

Sinai – The African Migrants Prison

African asylum seekers waited on the Egyptian side of the border fence with Israel in early September. The trip for those trying to cross from Egypt to Israel has become increasingly dangerous as criminal gangs in Sinai have taken migrants and asylum seekers hostage.

By SARAH LYNCH, New York Times

 African asylum seekers waited on the Egyptian side of the border fence with Israel in early September. The trip for those trying to cross from Egypt to Israel has become increasingly dangerous as criminal gangs in Sinai have taken migrants and asylum seekers hostage.

When he was found he had not eaten for three weeks and had been tortured, said a man named Abou Hamad, who cared for Mr. Gamienbay at his house in the area in the days before he died.

The Egyptian government began military operations in August to root out extremists and get Sinai under control. But despite an increased security presence, criminal gangs in Sinai continue to take migrants and asylum seekers hostage en route to Israel. They are held for ransom and often tortured.

“This is one of the most serious human rights concerns in Egypt and it’s not being addressed,” said Nicholas Piachaud, North Africa campaigner for Amnesty International. “It’s a tragedy which has unfolded across many different countries and is playing out on an international scale but being ignored by the international community.”

Sub-Saharan migrants, refugees and asylum seekers began moving northward, aiming to enter Israel, around 2006, said Shahar Shoham, who directs the migrants department at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, which provides medical treatment for them.

At first they were mostly Sudanese, who paid as much $2,000 to be taken to Israel, said Abou Mahmoud, a Sinai Bedouin who said he used to smuggle them.

But since 2008 they have mostly come from Eritrea, said Ms. Shoham and other experts. It is these Eritreans who have become the main targets of extortion and trafficking.

Meron Estefanos, a human rights activist and radio presenter in Sweden for Radio Erena, which broadcasts in Eritrea and via satellite around the world, said that in some cases criminals lured young Eritreans seeking asylum in Ethiopia into crossing Sinai instead, with a promise of better lives in Israel. They then kidnap them, she said.

Over the past 20 months, human rights workers in Egypt, Israel and Europe have documented a disturbing new trend.

Hostages in Sinai say they never intended to go to Israel but were kidnapped in Sudan or Ethiopia on their way to refugee camps and sold to Sinai criminals to be held for ransom.

“We are actually talking about a few hundred in Israel that didn’t plan to come here,” Ms. Shoham said.

The kidnappers are members of the Rashaida tribe in Eritrea and Sudan, or other Eritreans, according to a September report by Europe External Policy Advisers, a research group in Brussels, and Tilburg University, in the Netherlands. The report was based on 104 interviews with hostages, conducted primarily by telephone while they were being held.

Many said they had been kidnapped from refugee camps, including the Shagarab camp, in Sudan, and Mai Aini, in Ethiopia.

A human rights worker in Cairo, who asked not to be named to protect his organization’s ability to work in Egypt, said that of 70 former hostages he had worked with over the past year, all claimed that they had been held and tortured in Sinai. About half said Sudanese police or border guards had assisted in the original kidnappings.

An estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of the mostly sub-Saharan migrants who have passed through Sinai since 2009 have been tortured, according to Ms. Shoham. The Israeli doctors’ group estimates that half the women have been sexually abused.

About 7,000 people in total may have been tortured in Sinai and 4,000 may have died as a result of the trafficking in humans from 2009 through late October, according to data from various aid and human rights organizations collected in Israel, Europe and the United States. Ms. Estefanos, the human rights activist, said about 1,000 were being held in Sinai and all were being mistreated.

A 24-year-old Eritrean woman told the Israeli doctors’ organization that her kidnappers had “put diesel on my head” and set her hair on fire. She said she had been held for more than seven months, hung upside down, beaten and given electric shocks before $25,000 had been paid by relatives to various traffickers to win her release.

Lying on a blanket on the floor of Mr. Hamad’s home in the desert in late September, Mr. Gamienbay displayed scars from melted plastic that had been dripped onto his body. Too weak to speak clearly, he relied on Mr. Hamad to tell his story.

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Kidnapping victims sometimes wait months to be ransomed. Ms. Estefanos said relatives in Eritrea had sold land and possessions to pay extravagant amounts for their relatives — sometimes as much as $50,000.

“They would borrow money from people, go from church to church,” she said. “Some people are out on the street begging people to contribute.”

She began broadcasting her phone conversations with Sinai hostages, reached on their abductors’ mobile phones, in January 2011 to tell Eritreans at home and in the Eritrean diaspora about what was happening in Sinai and the region. She also helps to collect funds for ransom.

In one case, a group of Norwegians has collected money to win the release of eight Eritreans since April after publicity about the kidnapping of an Eritrean whose brother lived in Norway.

“People are saying that until the Norwegian government does something to stop this, we will continue to pay,” Ms. Estefanos said. “They had concerts, dinners, auctions where people can donate anything they own. Some people are donating their paintings. A fisherman donated 500 kilos of salmon.”

But even after a ransom is secured, victims may be resold, human rights activists say, and the ransom process can begin again.

And even if they escape, or are set free, former hostages find themselves on their own, wandering in Sinai close to Egypt’s fraught border with Israel, where “they’re essentially in a sort of no man’s land,” said Mr. Piachaud, the Amnesty International North Africa campaigner.

If they approach the fence at the Egyptian-Israeli border, they risk being shot by Egyptian border guards or refused entry into Israel. If they make it into Israel, they face indefinite detention because of an anti-infiltration law that punishes asylum seekers for “irregularly” entering the country. If found by Egyptian security forces they face detention by the Egyptian government as illegal migrants.

No comment was immediately available from the Egyptian authorities on the issues of migrant trafficking and hostage holding in the Sinai region.

Sheik Mohammad Ali Hassan Awad, who lives near the Israeli border, said he had helped some of the trafficked Africans who had escaped. The sheik, who has been working to prevent the trafficking in migrants for several years, said he had given them food, water and shelter at his Sinai home.

He also said that there were no more than 20 Sinai traffickers and that the trade in humans had declined 80 percent over the past year, possibly because of his efforts to persuade locals to shun the criminals.

“We don’t meet with them, sit with them, or buy from them,” he said. “They feel isolated from their own people.”

Even so, the bodies of three Eritreans were found Sept. 24 in the northern Sinai Desert, not an unusual fate for those held in torture cells.